Schoolboy wins government Vitamin D advice pledge

A 14-year-old schoolboy has persuaded the Scottish government that pregnant women should be advised to take Vitamin D supplements to help prevent their children developing multiple sclerosis in later life.

Ryan McLaughlin, whose mother has MS, took a campaign for an education programme on the issue to the Scottish Parliament's petitions committee earlier this year. In a written response, the Scottish government said it would put in place an action plan to increase awareness of the importance of consuming sufficient levels of vitamin D.

As well as advising pregnant women to take the vitamin, the plan will recommend supplements be given to young children, too.

The government agreed recent research had uncovered "an urgent need" to provide information to all health professionals working with pregnant women and young children about current guidance on vitamin D. "There is also a need to educate women about the importance of taking a vitamin D supplement when pregnant and the importance of giving their children a vitamin D supplement until the age of four," the response added.

The Scottish government will now agree a co-ordinated programme of action with the country's National Health Service, with recommended intake levels to be decided at a meeting next year.

Ryan, who lives in Glasgow, told the BBC: "I am so happy to hear that the Scottish government are being so proactive and really getting behind my campaign. These actions will make a big difference to the health of generations of Scots, and it will go a long way to giving Scots children some protection against disease caused by vitamin D deficiency and gives parents proper advice. I am now looking forward to the summit next year when we'll hopefully be able to tackle the recommended levels but this is such great news."

Ryan became the face of a YouTube campaign to publicise the use of vitamin D, and led hundreds of supporters down Edinburgh's Royal Mile to Holyrood, the Scottish Parliament, before he put his proposals to the petitions committee in June.

He told Scottish MPs that research into the genetic effect of vitamin D deficiency had indicated a link to the development of MS. Experts say Scotland has the highest rate of MS anywhere in the world.

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