The Essential Role of Vitamin D For Children’s Healthy Bones and Teeth
What is Vitamin D?
When it comes to optimal health, Vitamin D is at the top of the list. Vitamin D facilitates the absorption of calcium, one of the main building blocks for strong bones and teeth. Vitamin D is a fat-soluble vitamin that is naturally present in some foods and available as a dietary supplement. But mother nature – the UVB radiation from the sun – provides the best source.
Vitamin D is vital for the integrity of our bones and overall health, particularly in the growing bones of infants, children, and adolescents. Research has shown that vitamin D might play an important role in regulating mood and decreasing the risk of depression. It goes a long way in keeping you healthy and fighting off foreign bodies and illnesses such as flu or COVID-19. Despite being labeled a vitamin, Vitamin D is thought to be more of a multifunctional hormone as it’s made by the body in the skin with the help of sunlight and contributes to many of the body’s processes and functions. A true vitamin is a nutrient that cannot be made by the body and, therefore, is only acquired through food and supplements.
The Importance of Vitamin D in Children
The American Academy of Pediatrics, The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and working pediatricians have long stressed the importance of Vitamin D supplementation for infants, children, and young adults.
Vitamin D is an essential nutrient that helps the body absorb calcium and phosphate, key ingredients for building strong bones and teeth, good muscle health, and nerve cell communication, as well as promoting healthy blood pressure levels and immune system function.
In children, severe prolonged cases of Vitamin D deficiency can result in a condition known as rickets. Rickets are the softening and weakening of bones in children and can lead to deformity. Symptoms may include delayed growth, bow legs, weakness, and pain in the spine, pelvis, and legs. In most cases, changes to diet, added vitamin supplements, and more sunlight exposure are enough to cure this disease.
Vitamin D also helps strengthen the immune system and can even help reduce the risk of certain diseases. Fortunately, there are things that can be done to ensure your child has the appropriate amount of Vitamin D to keep his/her bones strong and healthy.
How to Ensure Your Child is Getting Enough Vitamin D & Sources of Vitamin D
With so many potential benefits associated with proper levels of this important nutrient, it is crucial that your child gets the right amount of Vitamin D. Vitamin D can come from many sources, one of which is through sunlight exposure. Because skin is the organ system that produces Vitamin D, it’s important to make sure that your child is exposed to an appropriate amount of sunlight to facilitate this process. The sun’s rays help convert vitamin D in the skin into a form that is usable by our bodies. Ideally, kids should get some natural sunlight every day to ensure they’re getting a good source of this vital nutrient. It’s no surprise that children living in darker, colder climates are at a higher risk for vitamin D deficiencies due to limited access to natural light. Caution: A child’s skin is particularly sensitive. Avoid sunburns and be mindful that overexposure of the skin to the sun is dangerous. Applying sunscreen can block the body’s ability to utilize sunlight in producing Vitamin D, but it is essential in preventing skin cancer.
So how else can we obtain Vitamin D to maintain bone health if the body is not able to produce enough naturally?
There are a few foods that provide a substantial amount of Vitamin D into your child’s diet including fortified milk/dairy and cereals, eggs (especially the yolk), cod-liver oil, mushrooms, and some types of fish like wild salmon, tuna, mackerel, herring, and sardines. Additionally, breast milk contains many amazing vitamins and nutrients, including some vitamin D. However, it is hard to get enough Vitamin D from food alone.
Vitamin D supplements can be another excellent source for children. Vitamin D supplements are available in two forms: Vitamin D2 and Vitamin D3. Vitamin D3 is thought to be more effective in raising Vitamin D levels in the bloodstream for a more extended period than Vitamin D2. Worth noting, that Vitamin D2 is sourced from plants, and Vitamin D3 is derived from animals. According to the National Institutes of Health (NIH), the amount of vitamin D that children need depends on their age with no distinction between Vitamin D2 and D3.
Be sure to check with your child’s pediatrician for the suitable Vitamin D dosage.
Specialists in Pediatric Anatomy and Healthy Growth and Development
Because Vitamin D is an essential component in the growth and development of the pediatric skeleton, pediatric orthopedic specialists are particularly concerned with the role it plays in their young patients. At The Pediatric Orthopedic Center, our award-winning physicians help educate patients and their families about the importance of Vitamin D and calcium as necessary tools for proper bone metabolism, growth, and protection against injury. If your child is experiencing any signs or symptoms of a Vitamin D deficiency such as fatigue, bone pain, or muscle weakness, please contact us at (973) 538-7700 or visit our website at pediatricorthopedics.com. As specialists in the anatomy of young bones, we bring a unique understanding of the correlation between proper development, building healthy bones, and its long-term effects on an active and healthy lifestyle.< Back to Blogs