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How Much Vitamin D Does Your Child Need?

Hello Villagers. Vitamin D is an important fat soluble vitamin for both adults and children. It does many things for our bodies. This nutrient helps build strong bones, plays an important role in immune function, and is used to make hormones and help our bodies function properly.

Vitamin D maintains bone health by increasing body’s ability to absorb calcium. Calcium is a mineral used to build strong bones in children and maintain bone mineral density in adults. Those with a deficiency cannot absorb sufficient amounts of calcium to build or maintain healthy bones. This can result in rickets in children and osteomalacia (or softening of the bone) in adults. Over long periods of time, the bones become porous and weak, resulting in more frequent fractures and breaks.

normal and osteoporosis bone
Bone spongy structure close-ups, normal and with osteoporosis

Vitamin D also plays a role immunity. Research has shown that it can help activate our immune system and enhance production of T-cells, monocytes, and macrophages. It may also play a role in preventing negative autoimmune responses.

We consume vitamin D through foods in our diets and the human body can also make it when our skin is exposed to sunlight. In recent years, both children and adults have become increasingly deficient in this vitamin. This is related to decreased time spent outdoors in the sunlight, increased use of sunblock, and diets low in vitamin D foods.

Both adults and children need 600 IUs (international units) of vitamin D each day. Those with a darker complexion or limited sun exposure need closer to 1000 IUs each day to prevent deficiency.

Individuals who do not get out in the sun frequently or who require sunblock to prevent sunburns, should focus on getting their vitamin D through the diet. Foods that have 25% or more of the RDA (recommended dietary allowance) include fatty fish, egg yolks from pasture raised chickens, mushrooms that have been exposed to UV light during growth, and fortified foods. Wild caught fish tend to have more vitamin D than farm fresh. For mushrooms exposed to UV light, check out their food label for this information. Cultivated mushrooms are typically grown in the dark. Those only contain small amounts of the vitamin. Mushrooms exposed to UV light contain 4-10 times more. Dairy foods and soy milk are often fortified with vitamin D to meet around 25% of the RDA.

Help your children build strong bones and healthy immune systems by increasing their intake of high vitamin D foods to meet the recommended levels.

Vitamin D functions and sources

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Jessica Barnes, PhD, RDN, LD

Dr. Jessica Barnes received her PhD in nutrition from Texas Woman's University. Her research focused on food preference development and creating materials to help preschoolers become familiar with healthy foods. She has worked with families and communities as a clinical and community Registered Dietitian Nutritionist.

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