Vitamin D is a vitamin that helps the body absorb and use calcium. Calcium and vitamin D help the bones grow and keep them strong. Most children get vitamin D from 3 potential sources:
Sunlight: Sunlight helps the body make vitamin D. Playing outside in sunlight about 15 minutes a few times a week helps the body to make vitamin D.
Fortified milk and juice: Most milk and many juices today have vitamin D added to them to make them “fortified” with vitamin D.
Foods: Only a few foods contain naturally occurring vitamin D; these include cod liver oil, egg yolks, and fatty fish such as salmon.
Vitamin D is needed by children of all ages, from newborn babies to adolescents. The current recommendation by the American Academy of Pediatrics is for all children to get 400 IU/d of vitamin D each day.
Both exclusively and partially breastfed babies should receive vitamin D supplements beginning in the first few days after birth. Ask your doctor for a prescription of vitamin D drops.
Children should be encouraged to run and play outside a few times each week. In addition to a healthy diet, a vitamin D supplement or children's vitamin can help make sure your child gets the recommended amount of vitamin D each day. Formula-fed infants and all older kids should take a vitamin D supplement if they get less than 0.95 L (1 qt) of vitamin D fortified formula or milk daily (four 224-g [8-oz] bottles or cups).
Adolescence is the most important time period for building strong bones. Offer your teen a vitamin D supplement or combination of calcium/vitamin D supplement to make sure he or she gets enough of these vitamins and minerals.
Young children who do not get enough vitamin D can develop rickets. Rickets is a bone-softening disease that can cause the legs to become bowed and can lead to poor growth.
Adolescents who do not get enough vitamin D are at risk for stress fractures. Stress fractures occur in the legs or feet during weight-bearing exercises such as running, in bones that are not strong enough. A research study in this month's issue of Archives found that low intake of vitamin D was linked to stress fractures in adolescents.
In the long term, children who do not get enough vitamin D may grow up to be adults with osteoporosis, which is a condition in which the bones are weak or brittle.
American Academy of Pediatrics http://www.healthychildren.org/English/healthy-living/nutrition/pages/Vitamin-D-On-the-Double.aspx
To find this and other Advice for Patients articles, go to the Advice for Patients link on the Archives of Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicine website at http://www.archpediatrics.com.
Source: American Academy of Pediatrics
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Moreno MA, Furtner F, Rivara FP. Vitamin D and Bone Health. Arch Pediatr Adolesc Med. 2012;166(7):684. doi:10.1001/archpediatrics.2012.1066