Recent studies show that most children aren’t getting enough vitamin D just by drinking milk. We are seeing vitamin D deficiency in infants, children, adolescents and adults. Vitamin D deficiency can lead to several conditions such as rickets, a disease which causes softening of the bones, fractures and deformities. It can also lead to osteoporosis, which is a thinning of bones in adults due to inadequate amounts of calcium being added to bones during childhood.
New research also shows that vitamin D may improve the immune system and help prevent infections, autoimmune diseases, cancer and diabetes.
Infants who breastfeed are particularly at risk for developing vitamin D deficiency, because only small amounts are passed through the breast milk and adults tend to be deficient in this vitamin. For older children, it is difficult to get enough vitamin D in the diet unless your child spends time in the sun every day (without sunscreen, which we wouldn’t recommend).
The best source of dietary vitamin D in children is vitamin D fortified milk. Other dairy products, such as ice cream and cheese don’t contain much vitamin D. Fish, such as salmon and tuna, also contain large amounts of vitamin D. Cod liver oil (yuck!) has the highest amount of vitamin D.
Because of the difficulty getting vitamin D naturally, the AAP (American Academy of Pediatrics) now recommends the following:
• Breastfed and partially breastfed infants should be supplemented with 400 IU a day of vitamin D beginning the first few days of life (vitamin D liquid drops are available over the counter for infants).
• Non-breastfed infants, older children and adolescents who receive less than 32 ounces of formula or milk should receive 400 IU a day of a vitamin D supplement.
• Adolescents who do not get 400 IU of vitamin D per day through foods should receive a supplement containing that amount.