Vitamin D in children

A sufficient intake of vitamin D is crucial to maintain health and for "bone stock" to develop optimally at any age. Find out how you can contribute to your child's or adolescent's health by relying on vitamin D.

Vitamin D—where does it come from?

The human body normally draws its vitamin resources from food, but vitamin D has a distinct feature—it is produced by the body (through the skin) under the influence of the sun. Exposure to the sun varies considerably and depends on factors such as latitude, skin pigmentation, apparel, and the use of sunscreen. Because exposure to the sun must be limited for babies and young children, vitamin D production is diminished.

Vitamin D is found in some foods such as fatty fish (salmon, trout, tuna, mackerel, anchovies, etc.), fish oils (cod liver and halibut), egg yolks, and margarine. Vitamin D fortified milk contains about 100 IU per 250-ml glass. It is generally difficult for Canadians to meet their vitamin D requirements by diet alone. This is why many of them choose to take a vitamin D supplement.

Vitamin D—what is its purpose?

Vitamin D is essential to your child's health, growth, and development. It ensures the mineralization of bones and teeth during the growth period. It also helps to strengthen the immune system's defences. Among other benefits, it contributes to the proper functioning of muscles and prevents some types of cancers and diseases.

A sufficient vitamin D intake is beneficial to the body throughout a person's lifetime. Among other things, vitamin D helps to develop and preserve bone health and to prevent the long-term occurrence of a disease called osteoporosis. This disease causes bone fragility and increases the risk of fractures. Vitamin D promotes the absorption of calcium that comes from nutrition, enabling the body to use it in bone development and preservation. Bone structures are constantly being renewed and, to do this, they need calcium, among other things.

This is why we have stated that an adequate intake of calcium and vitamin D ensures healthy "bone stock" for the years to come. The earlier one invests in it, the greater the benefits in the future. Recommendations concerning daily requirements of vitamin D vary according to age and other individual characteristics.

Vitamin D during pregnancy

The foetus depends entirely on the mother for the supply of vitamin D, which must pass through the placenta to reach the unborn child. It is essential that the mother's vitamin D levels be sufficient to meet her own requirements and those of the foetus.

The mother's vitamin D status during pregnancy and while she breastfeeds can influence the child's health not only at birth, but also later on in life. It has been shown among other things, that susceptibility to tooth decay and other dental issues is directly linked to vitamin D intake during gestation. Vitamin D deficiency in mothers and their babies is a significant health issue in Canada.

It is recommended that pregnant women take daily prenatal multivitamins. These supplements usually contain from 400 to 600 IU of vitamin D, which is in line with current recommendations in Canada. Ask your doctor to indicate what daily dose of vitamin D you should take if you are pregnant or wish to become pregnant, according to your personal situation.

Vitamin D in babies

It is crucial that a baby's skin be protected from the sun as much as possible, the medical community is firm on this issue. Consequently, vitamin D supplements represent the method of choice to achieve optimal vitamin D status in infants.

Health Canada recommends that all healthy term newborns who are exclusively breastfed receive 400 IU/day of vitamin D supplements until their requirements are met through nutrition. Commercial infant formula, cow's milk, and fortified rice and soybean milk contain about 400 IU of vitamin D per litre. Consumption of these beverages should meet the infant's needs if he/she drinks an adequate quantity.

Vitamin D in children and adolescents

Health Canada recommends a daily intake of 600 IU of vitamin D from age 1 to 18. Older children are often more exposed to the sun, which contributes to an adequate intake. It is estimated that daily exposure to the sun for a period of 15 minutes in summer, limited to the areas of the face, forearms, and hands is sufficient to obtain an adequate quantity of vitamin D.

A supplement of vitamin D is not systematically recommended for all children. However, if your child does not consume a sufficient amount of vitamin D-rich foods or drinks (for instance, if he/she does not drink much milk), he/she could benefit from a supplement. Speak to your child's doctor before giving a supplement.

Your pharmacist—a sound advisor

Pharmacists are knowledgeable about how to stay healthy. Of course, they are well-informed about treatments, but they also believe in the virtues of prevention. It may sometimes be difficult for individuals to determine on their own if they should take a daily vitamin D supplement or a multivitamin. Speak to your pharmacist in order to make a well-informed decision. Your pharmacist will give you information and help you to weigh the pros and cons.

Pharmacists can also give you information about the dose of vitamin D that should be taken and on how to optimally use the supplement. Additionally, they can indicate if the vitamin D supplement you are taking can interact with your medication and, if this is the case, explain what to do. Finally, they can help you to make the best choice among the wide range of products available at the pharmacy.

A vitamin D deficiency can be harmful to your child's health. Being well-informed and following the recommendations of a healthcare professional will enable you to invest in your child's health. Now that's a safe and profitable investment!


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Vitamin D in children

A sufficient intake of vitamin D is crucial to maintain health and for "bone stock" to develop optimally at any age. Find out how you can contribute to your child's or adolescent's health by relying on vitamin D. 
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