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Issue 48: Children’s Health Alert--Doctors Want Kids to Double Up on Vitamin D

Can’t get enough of a good thing? Apparently that’s the case with vitamin D intake and our kids.

The nation’s leading pediatricians group, the American Academy of Pediatrics, recently announced their recommendation for children from ages newborn to teenagers to double up on their vitamin D. The new level of recommended vitamin D intake is 400 units daily—twice as much as the 200 units recommended in 2003.

The reason for the increase? Kids are simply not getting enough. Vitamin D helps keep bones strong, but there is evidence suggesting that adequate intake of vitamin D may also increase overall health, while decreasing health risks. It’s important to note, however, that there has been no consensus reached on how much vitamin D intake would be necessary for these benefits—just agreement that our kids need more of it. Dr. Frank Greer, a co-author of the study that will be published in the academy’s November issue of Pediatrics, believes that there needs to more medical studies on vitamin D’s role in the maintenance of good health.

Adrian Gombart, an Oregon State University vitamin D researcher who has done lab work on human tissue, however, is pretty convinced that it will take even more vitamin D intake to get the maximum health benefits. He says that vitamin D helps increase levels of a beneficial protein and believes that, while the 400 units recommendation is better than the previous 200 units, it still may not be enough. He thinks that between 800 to 1,000 units daily is a better amount.

Kids aren’t alone in not getting enough vitamin D, however. The current recommendation for children is 200 units (hopefully to be replaced with the 400 units daily recommendation from the American Academy of Pediatrics) and 400 units daily is currently recommended for adults aged 51 to 70, while 600 units is recommended for those aged 71 and up. The Institute of Medicine is the government advisory group that sets these dietary guidelines and is currently discussing changing these recommendations based on the emerging research that indicates we may require more.

This new recommendation means that millions of children would need to take daily vitamin D supplements in order to meet the requirements, says the American Academy of Pediatrics, because many children don’t get enough vitamin D from their diet.

And speaking of diet…milk and oily fish such as tuna, mackerel, and sardines are great sources of vitamin D. Sunlight is one of the best sources, though, because the body makes vitamin D when the skin is exposed to direct sunlight. In fact, spending 10 to 15 minutes out in the sun a few times a week will work for most people—with the exception of those in the North (or less sunny climates) and for those who have dark skin. (Northerners and dark-skinned individuals require more as do those who layer on the SPF.)

But there’s always the concern of sunlight exposure and skin cancer. To get around the skin cancer concern, the academy concluded that “vitamin D supplements during infancy, childhood and adolescence are necessary.”

Supplements offer the extra vitamin D we are not getting in our diet—without the risk of excessive sunlight--and helps to ensure that we get enough of a good thing.

 

This information is intended for educational and informational purposes only. It should not be used in place of an individual consultation or examination or replace the advice of your health care professional and should not be relied upon to determine diagnosis or course of treatment.


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