New Vitamin D Recommendations
Are you and your kids getting enough?
Parents have long been telling children to “go out and play” and “drink your milk.” That advice is based on scientific fact: skin exposed to sun produces disease-fighting Vitamin D, while fortified milk also contains this important vitamin.
However, the wisdom about Vitamin D is changing. The American Academy of Pediatrics is now recommending 400 IU a day for infants, children, and adolescents—double the previous amount of 200 IU. And supplements, rather than sunshine or diet, may be the best source.
The new recommendation stems from recent research showing that more infants may be starting their lives Vitamin D deficient. Today’s moms generally have less sun exposure and lower Vitamin D levels, which in turn decreases their babies’ stores of the vitamin. What’s more, the disease Rickets, usually found in developing countries, is on the rise in the United States. Rickets is a bone-softening disease that’s entirely preventable through proper Vitamin D.
While we usually associate Vitamin D with bone health and preventing osteoporosis, researchers are now learning that it helps other systems in a myriad of ways.
According to Dr. Vicki Uremovich, a Ann & Robert H. Lurie Children's Hospital of Chicago pediatrician: “Vitamin D is involved with several different organs. One of the functions of Vitamin D is to regulate calcium and phosphorous levels. By promoting their absorption from food in the intestines and the reabsorption of calcium in the kidneys, healthy bone growth can occur.”
“In addition to promoting strong bones, Vitamin D is believed to affect the immune system as well and may help prevent infections,” says Dr. Uremovich. Indeed, the latest research shows that Vitamin D may help prevent autoimmune diseases, cancer, heart disease, and type 1 diabetes.
The Right Source for Vitamin D
And what about those tried and true parental instructions—drinking milk and playing outside?
“Sunlight should not be the only source of Vitamin D,” says Dr. Uremovich. “Especially with the associated risks and the need to avoid over exposure. Skin cancer rates have exploded, affecting more and more young people.” Sunlight is also a tricky route to ensuring Vitamin D levels because of variables such as skin pigmentation, cloud cover, pollution, areas of skin exposed, and geographic location.
Diet is not always reliable either, though foods such as fortified milk, eggs, and fatty fish contain Vitamin D.
According to Dr. Uremovich, “If parents follow the food pyramid, their children will have a well-rounded diet—but they still may not get appropriate amounts of Vitamin D. Unfortunately, dietary sources of vitamin D are limited. Children and adolescents who are drinking less than one quart (or four 8-oz servings) of vitamin D-fortified formula or milk daily should receive a supplement in hopes of benefiting from its life-long health benefits.”
Fortunately, Vitamin D supplements, and awareness of current pediatric recommendations make it easier ensure that you and your children maintain optimal health.
The American Academy of Pediatrics Offers the Following Guidelines:
- All infants, children, and adolescents should receive 400IU/day of Vitamin D.
- Infants who are strictly formula-fed receive the right amount of Vitamin D — all formulas sold in the U.S. supply the new recommended amount.
- Infants who are breast-fed, even those who also receive formula, should receive a supplement (such as TriViSol).
- For older children, widely marketed chewable brands contain the new recommended amount. Older children are still vulnerable to Vitamin D deficiency, especially during periods of increased growth.
- Pregnant women should continue to take their prenatal vitamin. However, it’s likely that future recommendations may include additional Vitamin D.
- One quart of fortified milk contains the recommended amount of Vitamin D. But it may not be possible —or palatable— for children to consume this quantity each day. Supplements are recommended.
- Parents should consider sunlight a negligible source of Vitamin D and continue to limit exposure to dangerous UV light.