Rickets affects the development of bones in children causing them to become soft and weak. This can cause pain and lead to bone deformities such as bowed legs. In adults, the condition is called osteomalacia. 

The most common cause of rickets is a lack of vitamin D and calcium. In particular, it’s vital to get enough vitamin D, which contributes to the normal development and maintenance of bones (and teeth). This nutrient absorbs and uses calcium in the body. The main source is sunlight – the body makes this vitamin when the skin is exposed to sunlight. 

However, in the winter months in the UK – from October to March – the sun’s rays aren’t the right strength to make vitamin D, so even if we spend time outdoors on sunny winter days, it won’t help to boost vitamin D in our body. It’s estimated that around a fifth of all adults and 8–24 percent of children in the UK have low levels of vitamin D in their blood and so are at risk of being deficient in this nutrient. 

The good news is it’s possible to boost our intakes of vitamin D by eating foods rich in this nutrient. Fortified foods and eggs contain some. But it’s oily fish such as sardines, mackerel, pilchards, fresh tuna and salmon that are true winners. These foods are naturally rich in vitamin D and so can help to top up our levels of this nutrient.

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