Vitamin D deficiency in children in the U.S. is on the rise. According to the CDC, it is now thought that 7% of males 12 and above are at risk of deficiency. So are 11% of females 12 and above.
Many more may have inadequate Vitamin D levels.
This important nutrient is made in the skin. Ultraviolet rays from the sun penetrate the skin and trigger Vitamin D manufacture.
Vitamin D also occurs naturally in fatty fish and in egg yolks. Nowadays it is added to milk.
Vitamin D plays a few roles in the human body. Its most well-known function is to aid in calcium absorption and help build strong bones.
It is also involved in our immune system.
Not only does it help us fight off infections, it also helps prevent the development of autoimmune diseases.
Some evidence suggests that it may protect us as adults from developing some other ailments such as heart disease, certain cancers and diabetes.
Severe Vitamin D deficiency can lead to decreased bone density.
It also can cause knee pain (note that there are many causes of this in children, however) and increase the chance for bone fractures.
In its more severe forms, Vitamin D deficiency can cause growth stunting and bowlegs (rickets).
There are a variety of reasons why Vitamin D deficiency is increasing in the U.S.
Kids spend a lot more time indoors these days – more electronic entertainment options exist now than a generation ago.
Sunscreens are important for preventing future skin cancers and skin damage, but they also prevent ultraviolet rays from triggering the manufacturing of Vitamin D in the skin.
So does darker skin color.
Plus, kids are not necessarily big fans of fatty fish or fish oils. Children do not always drink as much (Vitamin D-fortified) milk as they should.
Some children have certain conditions that affect dietary Vitamin D absorption, such as inflammatory bowel disease or cystic fibrosis.
The current recommendations from the American Academy of Pediatrics are for infants under a year of age to get 400 IU (International Units) of Vitamin D a day.
After the first year, children should get 600 IU of Vitamin D daily.
If the child doesn’t get enough Vitamin D through diet, it can be given as a supplement.
If followed, this might help stave off a variety of potential health problems, both in childhood and in adulthood.