Vitamin D seems to consistently be in the headlines… Now due to a rising number of both children and adults who are deficient in this very important vitamin and the potential long term consequences that this may have.
Functions? Vitamin D’s main job is to maintain normal levels of calcium and phosphorus in the blood, which are important for bone growth and maintenance. Vitamin D may also play a role in providing protection from osteoporosis, hypertension (high blood pressure), cancer (breast, pancreatic, and colon), and several autoimmune diseases (lupus, MS, psoriasis), depression cognitive/memory decline associated with aging and chronic pain..
Requirements: The new RDI’s indicate that adequate levels of intake for infants are 400 IU/day with a maximum of 1,000 IU/day for infants 0-6 months of age and 1,500 IU/day in infants 6-12 months of age. The new requirement for children and teens 1-20 years of age who are not deficient is 600 IU/day, although many vitamin D advocates believe even this is too low. Speak with your doctor if your child does not eat any food high in vitamin D (see below). Check out the newest report from the Institute of Medicine which reflects the new DRI’s at www.iom.edu.
The Sunshine Vitamin: Typically referred to as the “sunshine” vitamin, about 90% is made by the body when skin is exposed to UVB rays from sunlight. Experts believe that as little as 10-15 minutes in the sun three times a week (with most of the skin exposed without sunscreen) is sufficient to meet needs. Since most of us wear sunscreen the majority of the time (even lotions come with sunscreen in them), often the vitamin D from the sun can not be counted on. The other 10% comes from food, which is made easier with Vitamin D fortified products.
Deficiency? Rickets occurs with vitamin D deficiency in children, causing bone malformations and bowed legs. A host of other problems have been linked to Vitamin D deficiency in children, as well. If you are exclusively breastfeeding your infant, supplementation of Vitamin D is needed due to low levels in breast milk. A blood test can easily identify vitamin D deficiency. Infants and children should be screened for deficiency if they have: poor growth, gross motor delays, exclusively breastfed, unusual irritability, dark pigmented skin, presence of Vitamin D lowering medications , malabsorption syndromes or inflammatory bowel diseases, frequent fractures, low bone mineral density, obesity, low intake of vitamin D-rich foods, limited sun exposure.
Toxicity? Vitamin D is a fat-soluble vitamin and therefore stored in the body. Toxicity is possible, and can lead to serious problems such as hypercalcemia, lung, heart, and kidney problems. Recent research has shown that intakes need to be much higher than once thought to induce toxicity.
Dietary Sources: Oily fish (such as tuna, mackerel, sardines, salmon) and cod liver oil are great naturally rich sources of Vitamin D. Enhanced and fortified foods include eggs, milk, orange juice, and cereal. Just be sure that the packaging indicates that vitamin D has been added. Fortified milk is the main source of vitamin D for Americans.
Vitamin D is crucial for any growing child. Whether it’s the sunshine of your active life, or your family table, the benefits are the same. Getting a mix of both is the best way to ensure your kids are covered. Yet another reason to eat a good breakfast and spend more time playing outdoors!
Recipe: Honey Glazed Salmon
-Salmon is a great source of Vitamin D (and Omega 3 fatty acids as well!)
2 tbsp olive oil
1/4 cup honey
1 1/2 to 2 pounds salmon, cut into 4 fillets
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spray a 9 x 13 inch baking dish. Mix the olive oil and honey and brush on salmon.
Bake the salmon in the preheated oven for 10-15 minutes (depending on the thickness of your fillets) or until fish flakes easily with a fork.
Serve with quinoa and brocolli for a quick delish meal!
Author: Nicole Meadow, MPN, RD
Nicole Meadow, MPN, RD, is a Registered Dietitian with a Bachelors of Arts degree in Psychology from the University of Michigan and a Masters degree in Preventive Nutrition from the University of Southern California. She specializes in working with infants, children and young adults who have a variety of nutritional concerns such as overweight/obesity, failure to thrive, food allergies, eating disorders, Celiac Disease, selective eating, and many others. She works with clients and their families privately in her office in Encino or in their homes and teaches classes in the community. In addition to seeing clients in her private practice, NutritionWise (www.nicolemeadow.com), she also works part time as a clinical dietitian at Children’s Hospital Los Angeles. Visit her blog for more information www.nicolemeadow.blogspot.com or follow her on twitter @nutritionwise. Nicole’s most meaningful job is being a mom and a wife. She has a 6 1/2 year old son, Andrew, and an 18 month old daughter, Emily, (and 3 dogs)! Family is the fuel behind Nicole’s fire.