In the News

Are they getting enough vitamin D?

Saturday, April 4, 2009
« Return to News Mainpage

The Edmond Sun

Most people know how necessary drinking milk is to the health of infants and children, but a new report from the American Academy of Pediatrics indicates that it may be even more important than once thought. “Shortly after birth, infants need to get even more vitamin D in their diet than has been recommended in the past and that increase will remain important for good health all through childhood,” said LaDonna Dunlop, the Family and Consumer Sciences educator for the Oklahoma County OSU Cooperative Extension Service and a registered dietitian. Pediatricians are now recommending a daily dose of 400 international units of vitamin D per day for both infants and children, Dunlop said.

“But that doesn’t mean that parents should give their children large doses of Vitamin D,” she said. “Vitamin D is actually stored in the body and too much of it can be toxic.” Pediatricians are recommending infants and children get this larger dose of Vitamin D through their diet and also from exposure to the sun, not from dietary supplements, since these are usually the cause of a Vitamin D overdose, Dunlop warned. “Ultraviolet rays convert naturally occurring cholesterol in the skin to vitamin D,” Dunlop said. “But you really need very little sunlight to get the optimum effect.” Ten to 15 minutes of sunlight without sunscreen twice weekly is usually enough for older children and adults, Dunlop said, though people with lighter skin may need less and those with darker skin a bit more. Infants younger than six months, however, should never be left in direct sunlight. Too little Vitamin D in the diet can lead to diseases like rickets, which has been on the rise, and growth defects in bones, she said. One reason for the increase in Vitamin D-deficiency, Dunlop said, is a lack of food sources high in Vitamin D. In fact, one reason the cases of rickets are rising may be the greater consumption of soft drinks and juice drinks rather than milk, which is usually fortified with Vitamin D. Other foods high in Vitamin D are some fatty fish, egg yolks, and Vitamin–D fortified yogurt, breakfast cereals, bread and cereal bars. “It’s important to get adequate amounts of Vitamin D,” Dunlop said. “Recent associations have been made between a vitamin D deficiency and other diseases like type 2 diabetes, rheumatoid arthritis, multiple sclerosis and even some types of cancer.”