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Concern About Vitamin D In Children Prompts Survey

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Fuseworks Media
Fuseworks Media
Vitamin D foods
Vitamin D foods

New Zealanders may yearn for sun after a rough winter, but when it finally arrives will too many of us be blocking out its health-giving effects?

This is a question Massey nutritionists are asking in light of concern at growing evidence of vitamin D deficiency in New Zealand.

Nutrition researchers Dr Pamela von Hurst and Dr Cath Conlon, from the Institute of Food, Nutrition and Human Health at Albany, are surveying mothers and health professionals to find out what they know about vitamin D and its health benefits amid reports of the re-emergence of childhood rickets in New Zealand.

"There is emerging evidence that sections of the New Zealand population, ranging from newborn babies to the elderly, are vitamin D deficient," says Dr von Hurst. She says there is anecdotal evidence of babies lacking vitamin D as a result of their mothers not getting enough vitamin D during pregnancy.

The researchers suspect the information from the survey will show that New Zealanders need much clearer guidelines for safe sun exposure.

Dr Von Hurst, who is co-director of Massey's newly formed Vitamin D Research Centre, says "although most people know that sunshine provides vitamin D, we are only just beginning to understand its full role in the body and the long term consequences for babies and children if they lack vitamin D".

She says after years of unprotected sun exposure resulting in high skin cancer rates, people have shifted to the other extreme by avoiding the sun altogether in accordance with strong public health messages. "The sun in New Zealand is very strong - the message is not to let the skin burn," she says.

The two researchers with expertise in vitamin D and maternal and childhood nutrition are interested to find out if health professionals are confident about their own knowledge of vitamin D and if they are being given clear guidelines to communicate to parents. Dr Conlon says it is also important to find out what mothers in New Zealand know about vitamin D and whether the right messages are getting out.

In their online surveys, mothers and health professionals will be asked questions ranging from what are sources of vitamin D to why we need it. They also want to know what professional health advice is being given, where people go for more information, and what steps are typically taken to protect babies and toddlers from the sun.

The researchers hope that the keen interest of professionals and mothers in the health of their children means that people will take five minutes to complete the surveys. The results will be presented to health professionals at a symposium later this year at Massey University. Mothers can do the survey on: http://www.surveymonkey.com/s/NZmothers Health professionals can do a separate survey on: http://www.surveymonkey.com/s/NZvitD

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