Children’s poor diets lead to rise in rickets and scurvy
4th July 2013
teethDoctors in the United Kingdom are becoming increasingly concerned about just how poor our children’s diets have become, leading to an increase in diseases such as rickets and scurvy, and have warned that youngsters’ diets are now even worse than those seen during the previous world war – almost 70 years ago when food was rationed. After war was declared in September 1939, the British government strategised a rationing plan as German submarines began attacking British supply ships. There was a huge worry of a mass food shortage in shops, and that people would hoard food – leaving none for others. Food rationing in Britain began in 1940 and meant that each person was only permitted to buy a set amount of certain foods per week, exchanging coupons from a ration book, as well as money, in return for your goods. After the wartime rationing began, the typical allowance each week for one person was: one fresh egg; 4oz margarine and bacon (about four rashers); 2oz butter and tea; 1oz cheese; and 8oz sugar. However, because of a sparse supply of fresh fruit and veg during the Second World War, there were outbreaks of rickets and scurvy; both bone-related diseases. Scurvy is a rare condition that develops with an insufficient amount of vitamin C in your diet. Vitamin C is crucial for the body to produce collagen - a protein within different types of tissue, such as: skin, blood vessels, bones and cartilage (which cover the surface of joints). Without vitamin C, collagen can't be replaced, resulting in a breakdown of tissue. This then causes symptoms of scurvy, which include: . Joint and muscular pain. . Feeling tired and weak a lot of the time. . Small red-blue spots appearing on the skin. . Swollen gums, which then soften up and bleed. . Teeth may feel loose or fall out. Rickets is a disease that hinders bone development in children, causing their bones to soften and become weak and may result in bowed or curved bones. A deficiency of calcium and vitamin D from foods such as oily fish and eggs is usually the cause of rickets. The symptoms include: . Soft skull bones or skull deformities. . Teeth taking a long time to come through. . Weak tooth enamel, eventually leading to tooth decay. . Growth problems – children shorter than expected for their age. .  Painful bones that are affected by the disease so the child may become tired or reluctant to walk. Health chiefs are now concerned that the typical modern day diets of UK children are so poor that these two diseases, common during the food rationing period nearly 70 years ago, are on the increase. A lack of fruit and veg, high intake of fast foods and microwave meals are all being blamed. Dr Mark Temple, chairman of the British Medical Association's public health medicine committee, warned: “Food standards in the UK are worse now that they were during the rationing during the war. That's a strong indictment on the food industry. Obesity is a major health threat and we ought to be doing something about it.” Dietician Sioned Quirke, who works in the Rhondda Valleys in South Wales, commented on the issue, saying: “For some population groups diet and nutrition has reverted back to being as poor as it was 100 years ago. The difference between now and then is that this is out of choice. People say that fruit and vegetables are not affordable when in fact they are. Rickets and scurvy are coming back. When I was training 10 years ago we were told about these as past conditions and thought we would not come across them. These conditions are long-term. If the bones are affected by vitamin deficiency then they are affected for life.”