Why your kids might need more vitamin D
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 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:
- 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.
- 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 Pediatricsfound 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.
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.