Just about everyday, a new study points to the health benefits of Vitamin D3. In fact, The American Academy of Pediatrics recently published their evaluation of the advantages of this “sunshine” vitamin and advocated doubling Vitamin D levels for infants, children and adolescents.
Unfortunately, millions of U.S. children are low in Vitamin D. Vitamin D is an important fat-soluble vitamin. It is naturally present in only very few foods, can be obtained from sun exposure, and is available as a dietary supplement. A current study found seven out of ten (or 7.6 million) U.S. children have low levels of Vitamin D.
Vitamin D supplementation may help. In the study, children who took Vitamin D supplements were less likely to be deficient in the vitamin.
Supplements are especially important for those living in the country’s northern regions where the sun may be too weak to maintain healthy Vitamin D levels. Supplements are also critical for infants who are breastfed, say the researchers.
The authors recommend that pediatricians should routinely screen high-risk children for Vitamin D deficiency, and that parents should ensure that their kids get adequate amounts of the vitamin through a combination of diet, supplements, and exposure to sunlight.
The message for healthcare professionals and parents is that Vitamin D deficiency is a real problem with consequences for a child’s health now and in the future.
What is Vitamin D?
In the 1930’s, it was found that a bone sickness called rickets was caused by Vitamin D deficiency. It was a very serious health problem for children. To combat rickets, most of the country’s milk supply was fortified with Vitamin D, resulting in near elimination of the disease.
In recent years, there has been growing concern that Vitamin D deficiency has again become widespread, affecting young and old alike. In fact, it is only recently that we are beginning to understand just how important Vitamin D really is to our overall health.
Through exposure to direct sunlight, our bodies produce Vitamin D naturally. Researchers have suggested the evolution of our environment and today’s modern lifestyle – cloud cover, pollution, intense use of sunscreens, working longer hours indoors and watching video games – are all factors contributing to Vitamin D deficiency.
A further concern is that foods rich in Vitamin D are limited. Dietary supplements are commonly used to help get the recommended daily dose.
There are two forms of Vitamin D: Vitamin D2, also called ergocalciferol; and Vitamin D3, also called cholecalciferol. Most experts now believe that the only form that should be purchased is Vitamin D3.
- Vitamin D3 is considered to be the most “natural” form.
- Vitamin D3 is the more potent form of Vitamin D, which is a potential benefit
- Vitamin D3 is more stable on the shelf compared to D2
- Perhaps most importantly, Vitamin D3 has been the most utilized form of Vitamin D in research, clinical trials and human trials
Top 4 Reasons to Supplement Vitamin D3 Daily
The benefits of Vitamin D cannot be underestimated. Here are four top reasons why your child should be supplementing this vitamin everyday.
1. Immune Health
Vitamin D can help regulate the immune system. Vitamin D is now seen as having a critical function in maintaining the immune system throughout life and long-term Vitamin D deficiency has been linked to immune disorders. Proper levels of Vitamin D support the body’s natural defenses and help to maintain a healthy functioning immune system.
2. Bone Health
Vitamin D promotes the growth of cells which are found in healthy joints and is a key nutrient for maintaining/achieving proper bone health. The active form, Vitamin D3 (cholecalciferol), promotes the absorption of calcium and phosphorus which are incorporated into the bones and make them strong and dense. Therefore, Vitamin D is especially paramount for the health, formation, growth and development of bones in growing children.
3. Respiratory Health
Vitamin D may help guard against immune issues. In a recent study, it was determined that Vitamin D helped boost the body’s resistance to colds and respiratory issues (Journal Archives of Internal Medicine, 2009)
4. Heart Health
Recent studies on the sunshine vitamin support Vitamin D’s role in a healthy heart, both in children as they develop and in adults. According to a study of over 6,000 children by researchers at Albert Einstein College of Medicine, “Vitamin D deficiency could place millions of children at risk for high blood pressure and other risk factors for heart concerns.”
Supplementing with Vitamin D3
As we have discussed, only a few foods naturally contain significant amounts of Vitamin D, predominantly fatty fish and fish oils. 6 These foods can be difficult to get children to eat, especially in amounts that will provide beneficial health levels.
Exposure to sunlight is an important source of Vitamin D. Ultraviolet (UV) rays from sunlight trigger Vitamin D synthesis in the skin. But season, latitude, time of day, cloud cover, smog, and today’s widespread use of sunscreen affect UV ray exposure, and consequently Vitamin D levels.
Supplementation in children is almost always helpful…and necessary.
The following will provide answer to some of the more common questions on Vitamin D, referred to as the new “wonder vitamin.”
Q: We live in a sunny, southern state. Isn’t my child already getting enough Vitamin D from the sun?
As you have read in this newsletter, despite food sources of Vitamin D and the body’s ability to self-produce Vitamin D from sun exposure, more than 7 out of 10 children have insufficient Vitamin D levels. There are several reasons why they are not getting enough Vitamin D. Most of us are aware that unprotected, direct sun exposure may lead to serious skin and health problems. As a parent, you probably limit sun exposure for your child and are most likely putting sunscreen on them when they go out in direct sunlight. In addition, chances are that your child is spending more time playing on-line games and working on computers indoors, a lifestyle that is becoming more typical in our society. So consider Vitamin D supplementation to help assure your family is getting the proper levels of this important vitamin.
Q: No matter how much I try, my teenager’s diet is not very healthy. I am concerned that they are not getting enough Vitamin D. Is this vitamin important for teenagers of just for infants and toddlers?
A: Your teenager requires Vitamin D and it is a nutrient necessary for health from infancy to adulthood. Vitamin D plays a part in the bone-building process by helping the body to absorb calcium. Whether your child is an infant or a teen, Vitamin D is also needed for a healthy immune system. Additionally, research suggests Vitamin D can help maintain heart health as children age.
Supported by Science
These additional Vitamin D scientific references support the immense health benefits of Vitamin D3:
1. DeLuca HF, Zerold C. Mechanisms and functions of vitamin D. Nutr Rev 1998, 56, 54-10.
2. Reichel H., Koeffler H, Norman AW. The role of vitamin D endocrine system in health and disease. N. Engl J Med 1989; 320:980-991.
3. van den Berg H. Bioavailability of vitamin D. Eur J Cln Nutr 1997; 51 Suppl 1: 576-9
4. Institute of Medicine, Food and Nutrition Board. Dietary Reference Intakes: Calcium, Phosophorus, Magnesium, Vitanim D and Fluoride. National Academy Press, Washington, DC, 1999.
5. Goldring SR, Krane S, Avioli LV. Disorders of calcification: Osteomalacia and rickets. In: LJD, ed. Endocrinology. 3rd ed. Philadelphia; WB Saunders, 1995:1204-1227.
6. Favus MJ, Christakos S. Primer on the Metabolic Bone Diseases and Disorders of Mineral Metabolism. 3rd ed. Philadelphia, PA: Lippincott-Raven, 1996.
7. Holick MF. Vitamin D. In: Shils M, Olson J. Shike M, Ross AC, ed. Modern Nutrition in health and Disease, 9th ed. Baltimore: Williams and Wilkins, 1999.
8. Holick MF, McCollum Award Lecture, 1994: Vitamin D: new horizons for the 21st century. Am JClin Nutr 1994; 60:619-630.
9. Chapuy MC, Arlot ME, Duboeuf F, et al. Vitamin D3 and calcium to prevent hip fractures in elderly women. N Engl J Med 1992; 327:1637-42.
10. MacLaughlin J. Holick MF. Aging decreases the capacity of human skin to produce vitamin D3. J Clin Invest 1985;76:1536-1538.
11. Holick MF, Matsuoka LY, Wortsman J. Age, vitamin D, and solar ultraviolet. Lancet 1989: 2: 1104-1105.
12. Need AG, Morris HA, Horowitz M, Nordin C. Effects of skin thickness, age, body fat, and sunlight on serum 25-hydroxyvitamin D. Am J Clin Nutr 1993: 58:882-885.
13. Holick MF. Vitamin D. In: Shils M OJ, Shika M, ed. Modern Nutrition in Health and Disease. 8th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Lea & Febiger, 1994; 308-325.
14. Webb AR, Kline L, Holick MF. Influence of season and latitude on the cutaneous synthesis of vitamin D3. Exposure to winter sunlight in Boston and Edmonton will not promote vitamin D3 synthesis in human skin. J Clin Endocrinol Metab 1988;67:373-378.
About Safe Baby Healthy Child’s Health Expert: Dr. Murray Clarke, ND., D.Hom., L.Ac.
Dr. Murray Clarke is a doctor of naturopathic medicine with licenses and doctorates in homeopathic medicine and Chinese medicine (including acupuncture and herbology) and is a leading homeopathic physician for children in the Los Angeles area. He is also the founder of ChildLife® Essentials and author of Natural Baby-Healthy Child: Alternative Health Care Solutions from Pre-conception Through Childhood.
Natural Baby-Healthy Child utilizes diet, environmental detoxification, nutritional supplementation and holistic modalities including homeopathy, naturopathy, osteopathy, chiropractic and acupuncture to help parents–from pre-conception to pregnancy, to the baby’s first year through childhood–make the right health decisions for themselves and their child, naturally. Natural Baby–Healthy Child is an essential medical road map that will help keep children firmly on the path to robust, long-term good health and the realization of the full potential of body, mind and soul. For more information, please visit NaturalBabyHealthyChild.com.