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Vital Signs

 
Fall 2009

Kids need Plenty of Vitamin D, Too

09/25/2009

Kids Vitamin DA recent study reports that 70 percent of children and adolescents in the U.S. have levels of vitamin D that are too low to support building strong bones and promoting proper heart, muscle and immune health. And experts say many parents may be unaware that their children are not getting enough of this important nutrient.

“While children with extremely low vitamin D levels may develop rickets, a rare condition in which bones weaken and form abnormally, most children with vitamin D insufficiency will not develop obvious signs or symptoms in the short term,” says Carlos Lerner, M.D., medical director of the UCLA Children’s Health Center. “In the long term, we’re not sure yet what impact childhood vitamin D insufficiency will have on health,” he says, but notes that some experts believe it may put children at increased risks for diseases such as osteoporosis, heart disease, diabetes and some types of cancer later in life.

Dr. Lerner explains that vitamin D levels can be evaluated through blood testing, but points out that testing for this purpose is not routinely performed or recommended. He says that it is more important for parents to focus on ensuring their children receive the recommended intake of vitamin D, which is approximately 400 to 600 International Units (IU) per day. Children can produce vitamin D naturally by exposure to sunlight, or they can consume it in vitamin D-rich foods, such as sunlight-exposed mushrooms, saltwater fish, liver and fortified milk, and from dietary supplements. He advises parents to consult with their pediatricians about the best way to ensure their children receive appropriate levels of vitamin D.





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