TMH Living Well: Many kids deficient in vitamin D
Is your child getting enough vitamin D? The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) states that there has been a “startling increase in the frequency of severe vitamin D deficiency in the United States and other countries.” Not having enough vitamin D creates problems for people of all ages, but especially for kids. When kids don’t get enough vitamin D, their bones and muscles don’t grow or work well.
“Vitamin D is essential for calcium absorption, which helps build strong bones and helps our muscles move,” said Dr. Kristie Yarmer, pediatrician at The Memorial Hospital.
In fact, there has been an increase in rickets in recent years in the U.S., a disease that’s directly linked to vitamin D deficiency. Rickets softens bones. For babies and young children that can mean soft skulls, bowed legs, stunted growth and trouble walking or crawling. Breastfed babies are at an even higher risk for deficiency since breast milk does not contain vitamin D. In response, the AAP recommends that all kids receive a vitamin D supplement.
Sources of vitamin D
Did you know the main natural source of vitamin D is the sun? Skin exposure to ultraviolet B (UVB) rays sets off a complex body process that turns sunlight into vitamin D. Since many of us wear sunscreen to protect against skin cancer, we block UVB rays and subsequently do not produce vitamin D.
“Kids get less sun exposure today than in the past, since they spend less time outside. Add in the recommended use of sunscreen and they simply are not getting enough vitamin D from the sun,” Yarmer said.
While we do get vitamin D from food, it’s hard to eat enough of the right things to make it work. Vitamin D is common in milk, liver, cheese, yogurt, eggs and fatty fish like sardines. It’s also added to cereals, breads and other foods.
“It’s difficult to get enough vitamin D from food alone. If you are a family that eats a large amount of eggs, yogurt, cheese and fortified milk you might be fine, but I recommend a supplement to be safe,” Yarmer stated.
How much supplement is needed?
The AAP recommends a daily intake of 400 IU each day during the first year of life beginning in the first days after a baby is born. They also recommend 600 IU for children over the age of one. For infants, supplements can be given in drop form.
It’s not just kids that likely need a supplement of vitamin D. A recent study of 5,000 adults in the United States published by the National Institutes of Health found that 41 percent were vitamin D deficient, with that number increasing to close to 70 percent for those of Hispanic origin. The recommended daily allowance for adults is 600 IU for those 70 years old or less, and 800 IU for those older. Several studies support a link between vitamin D deficiency and chronic diseases, including cancer and heart disease.
It’s important to check with your doctor to make sure these supplement recommendations are right for you. Dr. Yarmer is now accepting new patients at TMH Medical Clinic. To schedule an appointment, call 970-826-2480.
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