The Welfare Food Scheme has recently been reviewed, and, although changes are being made, free vitamin supplements for children <4 years old will remain an important part of the new “Healthy Start” scheme. Establishing precise daily requirements for vitamins is not easy, and there is considerable individual variation; however, achieving the reference nutrient intake (RNI) should be possible with a healthy balanced diet for all except vitamins K and D, which require additional physiological or metabolic processes. For vitamin K, there is a well-established neonatal supplementation programme, and clinical deficiency is extremely rare. For vitamin D, however, supplementation is inconsistent, and both clinical and subclinical deficiencies are not uncommon in young children in the UK, particularly infants of Asian and Afro-Caribbean ethnic origin, and those who have prolonged exclusive breast feeding and delayed weaning. Most vitamin supplements contain vitamins A, C and D, with or without some of the B group of vitamins. There is clinical and dietary evidence to support vitamin D supplementation and some evidence from dietary surveys that vitamin A intakes may be low; however, there is no evidence to support supplementation of diets of UK children with water-soluble vitamins. Future strategy should aim at education of the public and health professionals regarding dietary intake and physiological aspects of vitamin sufficiency, as well as increasing awareness and availability of supplements, particularly of vitamin D, for those at increased risk of deficiency.
- RNI, reference nutrient intake
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Competing interests: None.