Hoping to prevent rickets and secure other health benefits down the road, the American Academy of Pediatrics just doubled to 400 IU its recommended daily dose of vitamin D for children.
“Evidence has shown this could have life-long benefits,” said the Academy’s Dr. Frank Greer in a prepared statement. “Supplementation is important because most children will not get enough vitamin D through diet alone.”
Breast-fed infants are at particular risk because maternal intake of the vitamin is often insufficient. For this reason “it is important that breast-fed infants receive supplements of vitamin D,” said Carol Wagner, who spoke for the Academy.
The Academy said that non-breast-fed infants and older children who consume less than a quart of vitamin D fortified formula or milk per day should also receive supplements.
Vitamin D is a fat-soluble vitamin found in tuna, other oily fish and not much else. We add it to other foods, such as milk and cereals and of course, it can be consumed as a dietary supplement. Sunlight is a good source of vitamin D, because UV rays trigger its production in the skin. However, sunscreen and clothing limit sun exposure, and sunlight increases the risk of skin cancer.
Vitamin D helps assure normal bone growth and mineralization. Insufficient vitamin D causes bones to thin out and become brittle or misshapen, conditions known as rickets in children and osteomalacia in adults. Vitamin D also helps prevent osteoporosis in older people, has beneficial effects on neuromuscular and immune function, and reduces inflammation.