Vitamin D is one of the essential fat-soluble vitamins (A, E and K are the others). It aids in the efficient absorption of calcium and phosphorus in the body. If a child is deficient in Vitamin D, he or she develops weak bones as well as becomes susceptible to other diseases.
Vitamin D Deficiency in Children
Deficiency of Vitamin D in children frequently manifests as rickets, a medical condition that is characterized by softening of the bones. As the bones soften, the child’s growth becomes stunted, he or she develops bow legs, and abnormal curvatures of the spine.
Aiding in the development of stronger and healthier bones is not the only function of Vitamin D. It also prevents serious medical diseases from developing, like certain types of cancer, osteoporosis, periodontal disease, diabetes, and muscle weakness. With adequate Vitamin D intake, your child is less susceptible to infections like colds and flu.
According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, the recommended blood level of Vitamin D should not be lower than 50 nanomoles per liter (nmol/L). Sadly, over 80 percent of children are below this level, making them Vitamin D deficient.
Sunlight: A Good Source of Vitamin D
Much of a child’s Vitamin D is obtained from the sun. The vitamin is produced in the skin following exposure to ultraviolet radiation. Most children acquire between 50 and 80 percent of their lifetime sun exposure before they reach the age of 18. So, kids who are Vitamin D deficient usually are not getting enough sun.
Children who live in areas with cold climates tend to suffer from Vitamin D deficiency because their bodies are unable to synthesize this vitamin efficiently due to the colder weather. On the other hand, children with darker skins are just as prone to Vitamin D deficiency because they need to be exposed to the sun more to synthesize larger amounts of the vitamin.
Food Sources of Vitamin D
Vitamin D can only be acquired from a few food sources. This can prove problematic for parents with picky children.
Good examples of foods that are rich in Vitamin D are…
- Cod liver oil
- Egg yolk
- Liver and other organ meats
- Vitamin D fortified milk, juice and cereals
How to Help Kids Meet their Vitamin D Requirements
It is the recommendation of the American Academy of Pediatrics that a child take 400 International Units (IU) of Vitamin D per day. Because there are limited foods and drinks that contain Vitamin D, the best source would be sunlight.
Expose your child to sunlight between the hours of 7 am to 9 am by letting them play in your garden or yard. Do not allow your child to be exposed to the sun between 10 am to 4 pm because this is the period when the UV rays are strongest. Doing so will increase their risk of skin cancer. Ask your doctor if it is necessary to give your child Vitamin D supplements.
Parents should ensure that their child gets adequate intake of Vitamin D through proper sun exposure, a healthy diet, and daily supplementation, so that they will have healthier bodies.
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