Vitamin D and Kids
Do you remember rickets? Probably not, but you may have heard references to rickety bones, a term used to describe frailty or stiffness. Rickets, a bone disease attributed to a vitamin D deficiency, was a major health concern in the 1930’s. When the U.S. government mandated the addition of vitamin D to milk, the disease rapidly disappeared.
But two recent studies identified vitamin D deficiencies and the associated health risks for young Americans. Over 60% of kids in the U.S. had insufficient levels of vitamin D. That means roughly 50 million kids have a potential health risk before reaching adulthood. Besides rickets, this includes high blood pressure, high blood sugar levels, and low HDL (Good) cholesterol the studies found.
So, how did this happen if the milk’s still fortified?
One cup of milk supplies about 25% of our recommended vitamin D intake. But often times, we let kids choose a nutrient-void drink like soda as a replacement. Not only is this a poor choice now, it sets up a lifetime of health risks.
The most readily available source of vitamin D is sunshine (it triggers vitamin D synthesis in the skin). And it only takes about 10 minutes a day of sunlight. But many of our youth are sitting in front of a video game after school, not playing outdoors. Sunscreen with an SPF of 8 or greater blocks the rays as well. Remember, it’s still important to protect kids when exposure is longer than 10 minutes.
Food sources beyond fortified milk include fish, fortified cereals, egg yolks, beef liver and swiss cheese. Check package labels for specific amounts.
Most children can reach the recommended amount of vitamin D by simply making a few diet corrections. Doctors warn against using supplements unless specifically directed. Overdosing on vitamin D has many health risks. Always seek professional help first.
So drink some milk, play outdoors and eat a little bit smarter. Sounds like a pretty simple way to keep our kids strong.