Kids Need More D Too!

If there were a beauty contest for nutrients, vitamin D would easily win "Miss Popularity".  Why?  One reason is the recent discovery that vitamin D does a lot more than help you build strong bones. Another reason is that many people are not getting enough vitamin D to keep their blood levels in the healthy range. Add to that new research that shows that vitamin D can make your muscles stronger, lower the risk of some cancers and diabetes, and lower blood pressure and vitamin D seems to deserve all the attention and praise it's been getting. Many researchers now advise people to get more than twice the present guideline for vitamin D. In fact, most adults should get around 1000 international units (IU's) of vitamin D each day. That's more than twice the old level of 400 IU's. Now the American College of Pediatrics (AAP) is telling parents that kids need more vitamin D too! 

Why More D?  The new guideline came along partly because of an increase in cases of rickets, a bone disease caused by too little vitamin D. Rickets was a big problem back in the days when kids often had to work in factories and city skies were filled with smog, both of which mean less contact of the sun's rays with the skin. Sun on the skin is our main way to make vitamin D. So, children who did not get enough sun often ended up with the vitamin D deficiency disease called rickets. Children with rickets often have bowed legs because their bones are soft. The bones also break more easily.

Should kids supplement? Few foods are high in vitamin D. Our main food sources are fatty fish like salmon and fortified foods like milk and some juices.

➢    The AAP has new guidelines for vitamin D that are twice the old levels
➢    Many people put sunscreen on their kids. That's a good thing because     it protects children from sunburn. But sunscreen also blocks vitamin D production.
➢    Breast milk is low in vitamin D
➢    Now, kids should shoot for 400 IU's instead of the old guideline of 200 IU's
➢    1 cup of milk has 100 IU's of vitamin D
➢    Some yogurts and cheeses have vitamin D added but most do not
➢    1 cup of fortified orange juice has 100 IU's of vitamin D

Here are the AAP's recommendations:
➢    Babies, children, and teens needs 400 IU's of vitamin D every day
    o The old guideline was 200 IU's
➢    Breastfed and partially breast-fed babies should be given 400 IU's of vitamin D per day    
    o Talk to your pediatrician about how to give your baby supplements safely
➢    If your babies, children, or teens are not drinking 4 cups of milk/fortified juice a day, give them a supplement
    o When children are old enough to chew, you can give them a children's chewable multivitamin. Teach your children that multivitamins are not candy and keep the multivitamins out of reach so children don't take more than one a day.

Beth Kitchin, PhD, RD
Assistant Professor
UAB Department of Nutrition Sciences

Source: American Academy of Pediatrics, www.aap.org