VitaminDessentialtoboneheal.cfm Vitamin D essential to bone health in infants, children
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Vitamin D essential to bone health in infants, children

The American Academy of Pediatrics recently released a new report recommending an increase of vitamin D beginning soon after birth. The new recommendation comes at a time when cases of rickets attributable to low vitamin D levels appear to be on the rise.

Although vitamin D has multiple functions, one of its primary jobs is to promote absorption of calcium and deposit it in the bones and teeth. Children with a significant vitamin D deficiency may develop rickets or defective bone growth. Although pediatricians are now recommending a daily dose of 400 international units of vitamin D, we don't want to alarm parents into giving their children too much.

Because vitamin D is stored in the body, it can be toxic. An overdose usually comes from dietary supplements, not food or sun exposure. The main source of vitamin D for humans is exposure to the sun. The ultraviolet rays convert naturally occurring cholesterol in the skin to vitamin D. But it is no reason to overexpose your skin and increase risk for skin cancer. Ten to 15 minutes of sunlight without sunscreen twice weekly is usually enough for older children and adults. People with darker skin may need more sunlight, and those with light skin may need less. During periods of extended exposure, sunscreen and protective clothing should be used. Infants younger than 6 months should not have direct sun exposure.

Food sources of vitamin D are limited in most diets. It is found in larger amounts in fatty fish (such as salmon and tuna) and egg yolks of chickens fed vitamin D. Most milk in the U.S. is fortified with vitamin D. One reason given for more cases of rickets may be the greater consumption of soft drinks and juice rather than milk. Other food sources available in the grocery store include vitamin D-fortified yogurt, juices, soy drinks, breakfast cereals, breads and cereal bars.

Consuming adequate vitamin D is especially important for mothers who are breastfeeding their infants. The amount of vitamin D in breast milk depends on the mother's vitamin D level. As for all people, consuming vitamin D rich foods and having moderate exposure to sunlight is important during pregnancy and lactation.

While certain diseases such as rickets have long been associated with vitamin D deficiency, recent associations have also been made between type 2 diabetes, some types of cancer, multiple sclerosis and rheumatoid arthritis.

We want to stress that your diet is the best source of nutrients and consuming vitamin D fortified milk and moderate exposure to the sun will help ensure you get enough vitamin D. However, infants may need supplementation. Before making any major changes, be sure to check with your health care professional.


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