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Vitamin D deficiency cases soar across Cambridgeshire

Cases of vitamin D deficiency and malnutrition have soared in Cambridgeshire.

Addenbrooke's Hospital Picture: Keith Heppell (8273992)
Addenbrooke's Hospital Picture: Keith Heppell (8273992)

Hundreds of people are being diagnosed with vitamin D deficiency at Addenbrooke’s and the Royal Papworth Hospital.

The vitamin helps people keep healthy bones, muscles and teeth – without it children, in the most severe cases, can have bone deformities while adults can get pain in their bones.

According to data from NHS Digital, Vitamin D deficiency cases at Cambridge University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust soared over the last three years, with 330 diagnoses in the 12 months to March 2018.

During the same period in 2015-16, there were just 220 cases.

Over at Papworth, patients were admitted with vitamin D deficiency 95 times in the 12 months to March 2018.

The vast majority of cases in the two trust areas were discovered during secondary diagnoses, when patients had been admitted to hospital for another reason.

However, the problem of vitamin D deficiency is one that’s being seen around the country. The British Nutrition Foundation said one-in-four 11 to 18 year-olds and one-in-six adults in the UK are believed to have low levels of the vitamin.

Prof Louis Levy, head of nutrition science at Public Health England, said: “Vitamin D is essential for healthy bones and most of us get enough from sunshine and a healthy balanced diet during summer and spring.

“During autumn and winter, those not consuming foods naturally containing or fortified with vitamin D should consider a 10 microgram supplement. Those who don’t expose their skin to the sun may not get enough vitamin D from sunlight and should take a supplement all year.”

There has also been a sharp increase in malnutrition levels, sparking charities to warn that many UK households cannot afford a healthy diet, and calls for government action to increase access to nutritious food.

Addenbrooke’s dealt with around 170 cases of malnutrition during the 12 months to March 2018.

The Cambridge University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust also saw some cases of scurvy in 2017-18 while elsewhere in the country there were 474 rickets cases.

The Food Foundation warned the figures were signs of a “broken food system”. Executive director Anna Taylor said: “Although cases of rickets, scurvy and malnutrition are caused by a complicated range of factors, they are not conditions that we should have to be talking about anymore in a country as wealthy as the UK.

“Nearly four million children in the UK live in households for whom a healthy diet is unaffordable. We need industry and government to take action now to ensure that everyone has access to enough nutritious food.”

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