Chief Medical Officer Scotland: Vitamin D supplementation

From letter from Dr Catherine Calderwood Chief Medical Officer Scotland 
24 November 2017

New Recommendations on Vitamin D Supplementation

Vitamin D plays an important role in maintaining bone health throughout life. Vitamin D deficiency impairs the absorption of dietary calcium and phosphorous. This can lead to:
 Infants having muscle weakness and bone softening leading to rickets;
 Adults having muscle weakness and osteomalacia, which leads to bone pain and tenderness.
The most recent National Diet and Nutrition Survey shows that a proportion of the UK population has low vitamin D levels, which may put them at risk of the clinical consequences of vitamin D deficiency.
Last year, the Scientific Advisory Committee on Nutrition (SACN) made new recommendations on vitamin D and health.  The full report is available at:
https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/537616/SACNVitamin_D_and_Health_report.pdf

SACN considered all relevant evidence suggesting links between vitamin D and various health conditions and concluded that the risk of poor musculoskeletal health (e.g. rickets, osteomalacia) is increased with low vitamin D levels. SACN found insufficient evidence to draw firm conclusions on the impact of low vitamin D levels for non-musculoskeletal health outcomes.
The Scottish Government has now updated its advice on vitamin D in line with the new SACN recommendations as follows:

Everyone age 5 years and above should consider taking a daily supplement of 10μg of vitamin D, particularly during the winter months (October – March). Between late March/early April and September, the majority of people aged 5 years and above will probably obtain sufficient vitamin D from sunlight when they are outdoors, alongside foods that naturally contain or are fortified with vitamin D.
From October to March, everyone aged 5 and over will need to rely on dietary sources of vitamin D. Since vitamin D is found only in a small number of foods, it might be difficult to get enough from foods that naturally contain vitamin D and/or fortified foods alone.

Children aged 1 to 4 years of age should be given a daily supplement containing 10μg vitamin D. We recommend Healthy Start vitamin drops for all children in health.

A new-born baby’s vitamin D level depends on their mother’s levels near the birth and will be higher if the mother took a vitamin D supplement during pregnancy. Some mothers and babies have a higher risk of vitamin D deficiency, including those born to mothers who habitually wear clothes that cover most of their skin while outdooors and those from minority ethnic groups with dark skin such as those of African, African-Caribbean and South Asian origin.
However, as a precaution, we are now recommending that all babies from birth up to one year of age should be given a daily supplement of 8.5 to 10μg vitamin D. Babies who are formula fed do not require a vitamin D supplement if they are having at least 500ml per day, as infant formula already has added vitamin D.
We recommend Healthy Start vitamin drops for infants. Neonatologists and paediatricians may recommend alternatives for premature infants, children with clinical conditions or clinical presentations of vitamin D deficiency.
Advice for parents on vitamin D supplementation for breastfed babies must be carefully considered as there is a risk that infant formula could be viewed as superior to breastmilk. Breastfeeding is the normal way to feed infants. It has an important and lasting impact on the public health of the population and it is vital that we protect and support breastfeeding. It is recommended that you emphasise that the potential problem is related to a lack of sunlight in the UK, and that it affects the whole 
population, not just breastfed babies.
It is recommended that those at greatest risk of vitamin D deficiency take a daily supplement all year round. These groups include:
pregnant and breastfeeding mothers
 children under 5 years of age
 people who are not exposed to much sunlight, such as frail or housebound individuals, or those that cover their skin for cultural reasons; and
 people from minority ethnic groups with dark skin such as those of African, African-Caribbean and South Asian origin, because they require more sun exposure to make as much vitamin D.
General information leaflets on vitamin D for both the public and healthcare professionals have been updated to reflect these new recommendations and are available online at: http://www.gov.scot/Topics/Health/Healthy-Living/Food-Health/vitaminD
New guidance has been developed for parents and healthcare professionals to support parents to follow this new recommendation. This includes advice on how to administer vitamin D drops to young babies. It is available at:
http://www.gov.scot/Topics/Health/Healthy-Living/Food-Health/vitaminD
From April 2017, Healthy Start vitamins for women (which provide Vitamin D, folic acid and Vitamin C) are provided free of charge to all pregnant women in Scotland for the duration of their pregnancy, regardless of their entitlement to the Healthy Start scheme.
Breastfeeding women and children up to age 4 who are eligible for Healthy Start can also get free supplements containing vitamin D. Further information on the Healthy Start scheme can be found at http://www.healthystart.nhs.uk
Healthy Start vitamin drops for babies and children currently contain 7.5μg per 5 drops of vitamin D, as well as vitamin A and vitamin C. The new recommended dose for vitamin D is 8.5-10μg and vitamins containing the new recommended dose will be available from October 2018. In the meantime, parents should be advised to continue to give the current dosage of 5 drops per day.
In Scotland, NHS Boards are responsible for supplying Healthy Start vitamin supplements universally to pregnant women and to breastfeeding women and children who are eligible for the Healthy Start scheme. NHS Boards are also able to sell Healthy Start vitamins to families who are not eligible for Healthy Start. Some Health Boards have chosen to provide additional free vitamins for infants.
We are not currently in a position to extend universal provision of vitamin supplements to the whole of the Scottish population or to additional at risk groups including the elderly, women in the pre-conception period, infants or young children.
Vitamin D supplements for adults and children are also available to buy from most major supermarkets, high street pharmacies and health food stores.

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Scottish Diabetes Survey 2016: are we winning or losing the diabetes struggle?

In Scotland 5.4% of the population is registered as having diabetes. 10.6% have type one and 88.3% have type two. 1.1% have other types such as Maturity Onset Diabetes in the Young.

In type ones 37.3% are overweight and a further 26% are obese. So 36.7% are of normal weight. In type twos 31.6% were overweight and 55.6% were obese. So only 12.8% were normal weight.

The annual HbA1c was done in over 90% of diabetics in both groups. 24.5% of type ones and 58.6% of type twos met the target of less than 58 mmol/mol which is equivalent to 7.5%.

Over 84.9% of both groups had their blood pressure measured that year and 45% of type ones and 32.7% of type twos met the target of less than 130 mmHg systolic.

Cholesterol levels were done in 86.4% of patients and this met the target of less than 5 mmol/l in 69.1% of type ones and 78.4% of type twos.

22.9% of type ones were current smokers compared to 17.2% of type twos.

Eye screening was undertaken in 85.4% of diabetics that year. 59.1% had had their feet checked and the score recorded.

When it comes to end stage disease in type ones, 3.5% had had a heart attack, 2.6% had had coronary revascularisation, 1.4% had end stage renal failure and 1.1% had had a major limb amputation.

In type twos, 9.7% had had a heart attack, 7.5% had had revascularisation, 0.6% had end stage renal failure and 0.7% had had a major amputation.

Overall 10.8 of the diabetic population use insulin pumps.

My comments: It can be seen from the data that screening is  doing very well. We have an average number of people with diabetes and the distribution between types one and two has not changed. Smoking is an issue in only about 20% of diabetics which probably compares favourably with social norms.

We have lost the battle of the bulge. Only 12.8% of type twos are of normal weight. Type ones are more like the “norm” for Scotland with just over a third being of normal weight.

Blood sugar control is very poor particularly in type ones with about three quarters of them with blood sugars over 7.5%. 

When it comes to complications, type twos are much more likely to get cardiac problems whereas type ones are more likely to get renal failure and amputations. 

 

Metformin improves blood sugar and vascular health in type one children

 From Diabetes in Control: Metformin Improves Vascular Health in Children With Type 1 Diabetes
Nov 18, 2017
In individuals with type 1 diabetes (T1DM), cardiovascular disease (CVD) is a major issue and the primary cause of death.

Vascular changes can be detected years before progression to CVD. Targeting blood sugar regulation early in patients at high risk of developing T1DM and in those already diagnosed with T1DM, could potentially help reduce vascular dysfunction risk and even reverse changes already made in vascular function.

Past studies have shown that in adults with T1DM, metformin reduces HbA1c, BMI, and required insulin doses. It has also been suggested that metformin leads to reduced cardiovascular events and better blood sugar regulation in patients with type 2 diabetes. Studies conducted on children with T1DM suggest the same benefits. However, there is currently no research on how metformin affects vascular function in children with T1DM.
A double blind, randomized, placebo-controlled trial was conducted to evaluate the association between metformin and vascular health in children with T1DM over a 12-month period. The study included a total of 90 children from a Women’s and Children’s Hospital in South Australia.  Children were randomly divided into two groups to receive either the metformin intervention or the placebo intervention. Children who weighed 60kg or greater received 1gm of metformin twice daily and those who weighed less than 60kg received 500mg twice daily. Doses were then increased to the complete dose over a period of 2 to 6 weeks.
Follow-up was conducted at 3, 6, and 12 months from the start of the study. Vascular function was obtained at baseline and at every follow-up visit using the brachial artery ultrasound, HbA1C, insulin dose, and BMI were among some of the other outcomes measured.
Results show that vascular function defined by GTN improved over the 12-month period by 3.3% in the metformin intervention group regardless of HbA1c when compared to the placebo group (95% CI 0.3 to 6.3; P=0.03). GTN was found to be the highest in the metformin group at 3 months when compared to placebo. Children in the metformin group also experienced significant improvement (P=0.001) in HbA1c levels at 3 months (8.4%; 95% CI 8.0 to 8.8) (68mmol/mol; 95% CI 64 to 73) when compared to the placebo group (9.3%; 95% CI 9.0 to 9.7). At 12 months, the overall difference between HbA1c improvement between the two groups was lower but remained a significant 1.0% (95% CI 0.4 to 1.5) 10.9mmol/mol (95% CI 4.4 to 16.4), P=0.001. In addition, it was found that children in the metformin group had a decreased insulin dose requirement of 0.2 units/kg/day throughout the 12-month period compared to those in the placebo group (95% CI 0.1 to 0.3, P=0.001).
The following study determined that children with T1DM with above average BMIs and taking metformin saw a significant improvement in vascular smooth muscle function compared to those not taking metformin. The study suggested that in addition to vascular health, metformin also improved HbA1c levels and reduced total daily insulin dose. It was found that improvements in both vascular function and HbA1c were the highest at 3 months. This is most likely due to medication adherence being the highest around 3 months.
Practice Pearls:
In children with above average weight and who were diagnosed with type 1 diabetes, metformin provides a significant improvement in vascular smooth muscle function.
Metformin provides a significant improvement in HbA1c levels in children with type 1 diabetes.
In addition to vascular health and HbA1c benefits, metformin further aids in reducing daily insulin dose in children with type 1 diabetes.
Reference:
Anderson JJA, Couper JJ, Giles LC, et al. Effect of Metformin on vascular function in children with type 1 diabetes: A 12 month randomized controlled trial. 2017. J Clin Endocrinol Metab. 2017; 0: 1-16.

RCGP: When is a sick child seriously ill?

Adapted from RCGP, Acutely ill children by Ann Van den Bruel and Matthew Thompson June 14

A feverish child is very common and many of them consult the GP or go to the A and E department. Emergency admissions to hospital with febrile illness are increasing even though admissions for serious causes of infections are relatively rare at less than one percent of febrile children seen in primary care. These serious illnesses are mainly caused by pneumonia, urinary tract infection and many fewer by sepsis, meningitis and osteomyelitis. The trick is to be able to recognise the very few children with serious illnesses as soon as possible.  This is where it becomes so difficult as the early stages of illness are non specific.  Up to half of children with meningococcal disease, for example, are not recognised as such at first contact.

Parents often correctly realise that their child has a much more serious illness than usual, indeed this indicates 14 times the likelihood that there is a serious illness,  but other times their description of catastrophe bears little resemblance to what the doctor or nurse sees.

Some clinical signs are more useful than others. For instance if the temperature is over 40 degrees, the risk of serious illness is raised from 1% to 5%. Other important signs are cyanosis (blue lips), poor peripheral circulation (mottled hands and feet), rapid breathing, crackles on listening to the lungs, reduced breath sounds, meningeal irritation (causing a high pitched cry or a stiff neck), petechial bruising, (non blanching bruised looking rash), and reduced level of consciousness, ( drowsy or incoherent).

Combinations of features can help sort out potentially serious from not serious causes.

The only prediction rule that has been tested is this.  If one of these is present then there is a 6% chance of a serious infection:

the clinician has a gut feeling something is wrong, the child is breathless, the temperature is over 39.5 degrees, and there is diarrhea in a child aged 1-2.5 years.

If NONE of these are present however there is a 0% chance of a serious infection. That is,  no concern from a doctor, no breathlessness, a fever under 39.5 and no diarrhea aged 1-2.5 or diarrhea but in a child out with this age range.

Symptoms and signs can change over time of course so vigilance from the parents is still needed.

Meningitis

Meningococcal disease may be lethal. The trouble is that in the first 8 hours of the illness, it presents with the usual flu like symptoms of fever, headache and sore throat.  Typical symptoms of meningitis only occur after 13 to 16 hours. These include neck stiffness, rash, fits or loss of consciousness. They also don’t occur in all children with the illness. Other symptoms that can help are leg pain and also the less distinguishing skin pallor or blueness and cold hands and feet.

Pneumonia

80% of all serious infections are due to pneumonia. This is obvious when you have an ill looking child, who is breathing fast and has a low oxygen saturation and on blood testing a raised CRP.

If a doctor has no concerns about the child AND there is no shortness of breath however, it is very unlikely that the child has pneumonia.

Heart rates and breathing rates can be raised in sick children but when this becomes abnormal is still a matter of debate.

If a doctor has concerns about a child, this raises the chances of serious illness from less than 1% to 11%.

Blood testing is rarely done in primary care but when done  perhaps in the A and E department, CRPs under 20 and procalcitonin levels under 0.5 ng/ml rule out serious infections.

Safety netting advice is particularly important if the diagnosis is not clear, there could be complications of a particular diagnosis or the child is at a higher risk of getting complications.

Although children are getting healthier, acute infections remain common, and parental concern leads to many presentations at the surgery or in A and E.  How to distinguish serious illness that needs quick intervention from non serious illness that can be managed at home remains a challenge.

 

Vegetable oil ingestion not so sunny after all

Adapted from BMJ 9 Feb 13 Use of dietary linoleic acid for secondary prevention  of coronary heart disease and death: evaluation of recovered data from the Sydney Diet Heart Study and updated meta-analysis. Christopher E Ramsden et al

Despite lack of evidence to the contrary I still see NHS dieticians telling patients to avoid naturally occurring saturated fat such as butter, cream and the fat in animal meats. This study didn’t get much publicity at the time so here it is again.

The question was, does increasing dietary omega 6 linoleic acid in the place of saturated fat reduce the risk of death from coronary heart disease?

What happened was that in the Sydney Diet Heart Study, a RCT done between 1966 and 1973, saturated fat (thought to produce heart attacks) was replaced by omega 6 fatty acids from Safflower oil ( vegetable oil and margarines, thought to be heart healthy). Although the blood cholesterol levels decreased in the intervention group, deaths from all causes, coronary heart disease and cardiovascular disease, all increased.

The subjects were all men aged 30-59 who had had a recent heart attack.  As an example, all cause mortality was 17.2% in the intervention group compared to 11.8% in the control group. Results for cardiovascular disease were similar.

It is mystifying that dietary advice telling people to swap lard for vegetable oils and butter for margarine is still going on. Very telling is that date that this study was done. The results would have been out by 1975.

Beware of alternative causes of neuropathy in diabetes

Diabetes in Control: Disasters averted

Not All Neuropathies in Diabetes are Caused by Diabetes
May 10, 2016

A woman, 57 years of age, type 2 diabetes, metformin 1,000mg twice daily for 12 years, came in with weakness, anemia, tingling of fingers and toes. Her A1C had always been below 7%. Some in my office thought she had developed diabetic peripheral neuropathy. I could not disagree, but I also knew metformin can cause vitamin B12 deficiency. I immediately ordered lab including a B12 level. Sure enough, her B12 was low. We recommended B12 lozenges, 500mcg daily, and her symptoms as well as her B12 levels improved. This was good news because neurological symptoms don’t always improve with B12 therapy, but hers did. (My comment: they need to be treated within six months of onset)
Lessons Learned:
• For patients taking metformin, check B12 levels at least annually.
• Consider recommending B12 supplementation to patients who take metformin, or at least teach of the possibility of this side effect.
• Teach patients who are on metformin therapy to eat foods high in vitamin B12 such as animal sources of foods including beef, poultry, seafood, eggs, dairy and foods fortified with B12.
• When a patient with diabetes presents with peripheral neuropathy, check vitamin B12 levels, and treat accordingly.

Gestational diabetics seven times more likely to get type two diabetes

From RCGP Brian McMillan et al

Reducing risk of type 2 diabetes after gestational diabetes: a qualitative study to explore the potential of technology in primary care.

April 2018

Although women who have experienced gestational diabetes have are seven times more likely to develop type two diabetes than other pregnant women, there is as yet no formal testing arrangement in primary care.

These women may benefit from annual Hbaic and ongoing dietary and advice on weight management.

If these women have a HbA1c of more than 42 they can become eligible for the National Diabetes Prevention Programme. Otherwise not.

Women in this situation were interviewed and told researchers that they would welcome advice regarding diet and the help of other women in the same situation. They said they would value technology to give them the information to enable personalised self management.