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the importance of vitamin d in childrenThe importance of vitamin D cannot be overstated, and yet a study in the U.K. showed that the number children with low vitamin D levels has increased 200% over the past few years (read more here).  In the United States, the Centers for Disease Control reported that 32% of children and adults throughout the U.S. are vitamin D deficient.

Low vitamin D levels can impact many areas of health at all ages, but it is particularly important for infants and children to get optimal levels of vitamin D.  Even in sunny climates, children are not necessarily getting adequate sunlight to maintain healthy vitamin D levels, and now with increased awareness of skin cancer and parents being more rigorous about applying sunscreen, those rays may not be getting to the skin as needed.

One of the key roles of vitamin D is in healthy bone development.  A deficiency can lead to a condition called rickets, which occurs when bones are not fully calcified and thus will soften and bow.  Often hypocalcemia will preclude this, but since infants are not routinely screened for vitamin D and calcium levels through blood work, there may not be too many warning signs.

Vitamin D deficiency in children is associated with higher incidence of asthma, auto-immune disease and diabetes.  Vitamin D is essential for immune function, so kids with lower levels may experience more colds, flus and other infections.

Vitamin D is also crucial for healthy development of the baby in utero, and so it is equally important for women who are pregnant or trying to become pregnant.  From the mother’s standpoint, pre-eclampsia is associated with vitamin D deficiency.  Further, vitamin D deficiency, according to one researcher, leads to a 400% higher chance of C-section birth, because of the negative impact of low D on the muscles required to birth a baby.

Vitamin D deficiency may be one of the easiest deficiencies to correct, but it usually requires supplementation.  Although I am a huge advocate of breastfeeding, breastfed babies overall have lower vitamin D levels, because formulas are typically fortified with it.

The recommendations made by the American Academy of Pediatrics in 2008 are that infants receive 400 IU daily of vitamin D.  The Society Clinical Practice Guidelines Committee recommends the following dosages:

  • neonates and infants – 400-1000 IU daily.
  • children over age 1 – 600-1000 IU daily.
  • adults – 1500-2000 IU daily.

Still, these doses aim to get levels to 30 ng/mL, which is the basic level for disease prevention.  Optimal levels are in the 50-70 ng/mL range, which may require higher levels of supplementation.

Supplementation must be done with D3, not D2.  I personally like the Biotics brand as it is in liquid form and is emulsified which gives it optimal absorption – the Bio-D-Mulsion has 400 IU per drop, so it’s really easy to sneak 1-2 drops into a milk or water bottle for littlies (or on the nipple for nursing mamas).  Bio-D-Mulsion Forte contains 2000 IU per drop which is great for adults.  I put 3 drops of the Forte into my smoothie every morning, and 3 drops of the regular one into Valentina’s bottle.  Neither of us can taste any difference!

Vitamin D deficiency seems to be rampant, and is so easily preventable with just a drop or two of a vitamin D supplement.  Equally important for both developing babies in utero, infants, children and adults – there are so many health benefits to making sure vitamin D levels are adequate.