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Why your kids might need more vitamin D

Laura Owens is a freelance writer who specializes in natural health, mood balancing, psychology, social trends and motherhood. She lives in Orlando, Florida. You can reach her at laao@cfl.rr.com or http://lauraowens.wordpress.com.

Children and the sunshine vitamin

Research suggests 70 percent of children in the U.S. are either low or deficient in Vitamin D. Find out why adequate D is important for your family’s health.

Vitamin D

Vitamin D critical hormone

The sunshine vitamin hit the health spotlight when researchers discovered Vitamin D's role in numerous critical body processes, and because many people are low. "I believe [vitamin D] is the number one public health advance in medicine in the last twenty years," says Dr. John Whitcomb of Aurora Sinai Medical Center.

Vitamin D's metabolite, calcitriol, is a secosteroid hormone that unlocks hereditary information encoded in an organism's DNA. Dr. John J. Cannell, Executive Director of the Vitamin D Council, writes on his website, "The human genome contains more than 2,700 binding sites for calcitriol; those binding sites are near genes involved in virtually every known major disease of humans."

Vitamin D is involved in:

  • Calcium absorption in the intestinal tract
  • Growing and remodeling bone
  • Modulating cell growth
  • Immunity and neuromuscular function
  • Reducing inflammation

How to get enough vitamin D

Vitamin D doesn't naturally occur in many foods, but you can up your intake with:

  1. Sun. Exposure to the sun's UVB rays produces about 10,000 international units of D3 in minutes. Worried about a sunburn? The amount of D needed daily is produced in about half the time it takes your skin to turn pink.
  2. Supplements. Vitamin D3 (cholecalciferol) and D2 (ergocalciferol) are available. Doctors often prescribe vitamin D2, although most experts prefer D3 because it's similar to what the sun produces.  

Kids and vitamin D

Low vitamin D in kids can cause rickets, which leads to bone fractures and deformities. Moreover, a 2009 study published in Pediatrics found that 9 percent of kids ages 1 to 25 were deficient in vitamin D and 61 percent were low. The researchers linked their findings to increased cardiovascular risk.

There were differences in vitamin D levels according to race. However, kids with levels less than 30 ng/mL were more likely to have low serum calcium and HDL (good cholesterol) and higher blood pressure.

Read about asthma in kids and vitamin D >>

Pediatricians from Johns Hopkins Children's Center linked low D and anemia in children. Kids with levels lower than 20 ng/mL had a 50 percent higher risk for anemia. Every 1 ng/ml increase in D dropped risk by 3 percent.

Vitamin D dosing debated

While most experts believe adults and kids need more vitamin D, not everyone agrees on the amount. In 2010 the Food and Nutrition Board (FNB) released new recommendations:

  • Children and adults up to age 70: 600 IU
  • Seniors 70 and older: 800 IU

The panel concluded that for 97 percent of the population, reaching 20 ng/ml is sufficient, although several medical groups suggest 30 ng/ml is necessary for optimal bone health.

Read the American Academy of Pediatrics recommendations >>

Dr. John Cannell, Executive Director of the Vitamin D Council, recommends a higher optimal level all year round for adults and children -- 50 to 80 ng/ml. The exact dosing, explains Dr. Cannell, varies according to age, weight, overall health and sun exposure.

The Vitamin D Council suggests:

  • Healthy children under 1 year old: 1,000 IU
  • Healthy children over 1 year old: 1,000 IU/25 pounds of body weight
  • Healthy adults and adolescents: at least 5,000 IU
  • Pregnant and lactating mothers: at least 6,000 IU

"Children and adults with chronic health conditions such as autism, MS, cancer, heart disease or obesity may need as much as double these amounts," says Cannell.

Read more about kids and vitamin D

The importance of vitamin D for your family
Does your child really need vitamin supplements?
Top 5 health-boosting nutrients for kids

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