Sunday, March 3, 2013

Vitamin D and Our Children

Do you think your children get enough vitamin D?  Think again!  According to a study published in 2008, fifty-two percent of infants and toddlers in the USA have vitamin D levels below optimal and 12% of them have vitamin D deficiency [1].  Unfortunately, rickets, bowing of the legs due to vitamin D deficiency, is not only a early childhood problem, new cases in adolescents are being documented [2].  Vitamin D deficiency is more serious than it was once thought to be.  Current studies are reporting that vitamin D levels below optimal increase an individual’s risk for infection, autoimmune diseases, some forms of cancer and type 2 diabetes [2].  This is a growing problem in the USA and many other countries around the world; the good side is it is preventable.

In order to prevent vitamin D deficiency children need to get enough vitamin D, easy enough.  But what are good sources of vitamin D?  The number one source of vitamin D is direct sunlight.  The skin makes vitamin D when exposed to UVB light.  Fifteen to twenty minutes of direct sunlight a day can be enough for the body to produce adequate amounts of vitamin D, but unfortunately children spend about 93% of their day inside [2]. The seven percent they spent outside, they are smothered with sunscreen that inhibits vitamin D synthesis. As for food sources of vitamin D, they are limited.  Fatty fish, fish oils, liver and fat from aquatic animals and eggs from chickens fed vitamin D supplements are the few sources with any amount of naturally occurring vitamin D [2].  Fortunately there are fortified sources of vitamin D like milk and recently some orange juices are being fortified.  Even with fortification infants especially breastfed babies [1], children and adolescents are not getting enough vitamin D.

In hopes of reaching optimal vitamin D level in children, experts recommend that breastfed infants, children and adolescents take a supplement with 400 IU’s of vitamin D daily [2].  Additionally, spring and summer are the vitamin D making seasons; children should get 15 to 20 minutes of unprotected, sunscreen free, exposure of sun daily.  With adequate sun exposure first, consumption of fortified milk and supplementation hopefully we can overcome vitamin D deficiency and all the tags attached.


1.            Gordon, C., et al., Prevalence of vitamin D deficiency among healthy infants and toddlers. Archives of Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicine, 2008. 162(6): p. 505.

2.            Wagner, C. and F. Greer, Prevention of rickets and vitamin D deficiency in infants, children, and adolescents. Pediatrics, 2008. 122(5): p. 1142.


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