Vitamin D: Is Your Child Getting Enough?
While here in Los Angeles we are fortunate to escape the many winter woes that are making headlines around the country, our sunny disposition still may not be enough to keep Vitamin D, the “sunshine vitamin”, out of our thoughts. Vitamin D is a fat soluble vitamin that plays a wide variety of roles in just about every cell in our body. Since our bodies can make Vitamin D from sunlight, something we certainly aren’t lacking, it may be surprising that Vitamin D deficiency is still commonly found throughout the Southern California population.
Research is still ongoing, but the more we learn about Vitamin D, the more we realize just how important this essential nutrient is to our daily health. Vitamin D helps regulate calcium and phosphorus which is important for bone health, supports a healthy immune system, and helps with blood sugar and blood pressure regulation.
Aside from sunlight, Vitamin D is naturally occurring in few food sources. Oily fish (salmon, mackerel, sardines), cod liver oil, liver and organ meats, and egg yolk are natural, unfortified food sources of Vitamin D, however, these are not foods consistently included in diets of infants and children. More and more food is being fortified with Vitamin D to improve intake levels and is now frequently found in milk (and milk products), orange juice, bread, cereals, and infant formulas. Vitamin D intake is still often inadequate.
Are you and your family getting enough Vitamin D?
If you have dark skin pigment, live in a heavily polluted/smoggy/cloudy area, spend most time indoors, or religiously slather on sunscreen (good for you!), you’re more likely to be deficient in Vitamin D. In addition, if your child (or you) have any chronic health conditions, the risk of Vitamin D deficiency is even greater.
What should you be doing?
At Children’s Hospital Los Angeles, we provide our patients with adequate Vitamin D to meet their needs. We generally provide all infants with 400 IU of Vitamin D daily. This includes breastfed infants, as while being the best for infants, does lack Vitamin D even if mom has sufficient Vitamin D levels. Vitamin D supplementation is easy to provide as a liquid drop of either Vitamin D (cholecalciferol) alone or as an infant multivitamin (which provides 400 IU if given in an appropriate dose). Vitamin D is especially important for infants and children, who experience rapid periods of growth, and deficiency can have lasting effects on bone development, growth, and health. Children over one year of age should receive at least 600 IU/d of Vitamin D. This can also be given in supplemental form if blood levels indicate insufficiency or if it is suspected that dietary sources of Vitamin D is lacking.
If your infant or child is not currently taking Vitamin D, be sure to speak with your dietitian at your next CHLA appointment.