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Vitamin D

Why a healthy diet isn’t enough to supply this much-needed nutrient.

You are a great mom. You feed your kids a healthy diet full of fruits, vegetables, dairy products and protein. So your kids don’t need supplements, right? Not true, say pediatricians, nutritionists and growth specialists. Vitamin D deficiency has been implicated as a contributor to everything from slow growth to weight gain to osteoporosis and even depression. Even doctors who are not on the supplement bandwagon are making an exception here.

Why Foods Are Not Enough

Isn’t a healthy diet enough? Why is this vitamin different? The answer is sun exposure. If, like many of our ancestors, we spent 12 hours a day in the sun without sunscreen, we likely would not need supplements. However, modern lifestyles don’t include such long hours in the sun’s rays. Besides, spending so much time in the sun is not advisable; longer life expectancies and increased ozone levels mean that the occurrence of skin cancer is on the rise. In a study published in the June issue of the medical journal Pediatrics, the authors found that even in sunny Georgia, more than half of the teenagers tested had vitamin D insufficiency and 28 percent had full-blown vitamin D deficiency. To help your kids avoid vitamin D insufficiency, you will likely need to supplement. In 2008, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) increased its recommendation from 200IU, or International Units, to 400IU. For comparison, 1 IU is about equal to 40 micrograms. Many experts say that even that is not enough. While it may be sufficient to prevent rickets, a disorder that leads to softening and weakening of the bones, it may not be enough for optimal growth and health.

For now, make sure your kids get the 400IU supplement dose recommended by the AAP. In addition, offer them foods that are rich in vitamin D such as fish, eggs and fortified cereals. Be careful not to over-supplement. According to the National Institutes of Health, levels over 2,000IU may be dangerous for children.

Foods rich in vitamin D according to the USDA

Egg yolk
Fortified cereals
Fortified milk
High-fat fish

by Bridgett Hurley
Photo courtesy of iStock

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