Why Vitamin D is So Important for Toddlers & Children

Mounting research is prompting news reports on the recommended daily allowance for Vitamin D.  In the past it was believed that we get enough Vitamin D from sunlight and foods (specifically vitamin D fortified milk, oily fish, shrimp and eggs).  Baby formula is also fortified with Vitamin D however children that are breastfed may need a supplement, depending upon the mothers own Vitamin D levels.  To meet new recommendations we would need to drink four glasses of vitamin D milk a day. It would also appear that some people’s bodies are not able to store Vitamin D to a level sufficient for health benefits.  These people may then need a supplement.  The American Academy of Pediatrics has doubled its recommendations to 400 units daily.

The main function of Vitamin D is to maintain proper calcium levels in the blood.  Vitamin D boosts the immune system, strengthens bones and helps keep inflammation in check.  It is thought that this has the potential for dramatic overall effects on preventing diseases such as cancer, diabetes and heart disease.  There are ongoing studies that are looking at the benefits of even higher levels of Vitamin D for reducing the risk of diseases such as cancer.  The amount needed for such uses has yet to be decided.  What is clear is that Vitamin D is essential for overall health.

Try to encourage lots of fish, shrimp, milk and at least 15 minutes a day of outdoor play where children are exposed to direct sunlight.  The best way to obtain Vitamin D is through direct sunlight (without sunscreen so be careful to limit to 15-20 minutes).  In this form Vitamin D is most accessible to the body and there is no risk of overdose. If these options are not enough (such as if you have dark skin or live in less sunny climates) you may want to consider having a blood test to check your Vitamin D levels and subsequently add supplements.

References :

Pediatricians double vitamin D recommendations, by Lindsay Tanner, AP medical writer.
Doubling of Vitamin D for children is urged, by The Associated Press (in nytimes.com)
Vitamin D: New guidelines for Children, by Miranda Hitti WEbMD Health News
The worlds healthiest foodswww.whfoods.org  – what can high-vitamin d foods do for you?

by Tara Deringor, PT