Thursday, June 19, 2008

Do your kids get enough Vitamin D?

Here's a story on vitamin D deficiency that ran on Good Morning America:(There's a little part in the middle that really irks me, but I think the story is interesting in general.)

It may not be enough to make your kids eat their veggies every night. According to an alarming new study out this month, more than 40 percent of children from infants to teens are vitamin D deficient. You're about to meet one young man who found out the hard way.

Mike Stone and his brother Doug have always been healthy active boys. Their mom, Marla, made sure they ate right, drank their milk and regularly saw their pediatrician. Then, at age 14, after Mike complained of back pain, X-rays revealed a shocking discovery. Mike said, "He put it up to the light and you could essentially see right through the bones."

Doctors told him that he was seriously Vitamin D deficient. His bones were only 50% the density of a normal child his age and in risk of a fracture at any moment.His younger brother Doug who was just 7 at the time was also diagnosed as having vitamin D deficiency but to a lesser degree.

Dr. Michael Holick from Boston University Medical Center said,"It's been estimated now that maybe 50% of children in us are at risk of vitamin D deficiency." Vitamin D is known as the "sunshine vitamin," and is produced by your skin in sunlight. It controls the amount of calcium absorbed from your diet and promotes mineralization of teeth and bones.

Dr. Hollick said, "Vitamin D deficiency may increase risk for diabetes, arthritis, maybe cancers. Experts say the low levels of vitamin D in teens may be attributed to their lifestyle-- more time spent on the computer than outside in the sunlight, plus an increase use of sunblock. But according to a new study the problem may begin even earlier.

Researchers at the Children's Hospital in Boston, found 12 percent of infants and toddlers were deficient in vitamin D, and 40 percent had below-optimal levels. Dr. Hollick said, "Pediatricians believe human breast milk provides all nutrients infant requires. But it doesn't. They need vitamin D supplementation."

The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that infants and children receive a minimum of 200 international units of vitamin D daily, starting during the first two months of life and continuing through childhood and adolescence. Most formulas provide the daily recommended value, but breast milk does not. To compensate, breast-fed infants can be given a liquid multivitamin drop that contains vitamin D. ((I know I am a reporter and am not supposed to question the experts, but I would need a lot more evidence before I would start giving a breastfed baby vitamin D liquid drops!))

The good news is the problem can easily be reversed through supplements and treatment. Mike and his brother Doug now take supplements, eat more dairy products, and drink juice fortified with vitamin D and their bone density has reached a normal level.

I have no idea about my bone density or that of my kids. They do spend a lot of time in the sun, but I try to keep sunscreen on them. I guess I would prefer vitamin deficiency to cancer if I have to make that choice. Maybe I would do supplementation for older kids if they really need it.

-NewsAnchorMom Jen

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Maria said...

Google how much sun exposure you child needs. It's not much. I put Amari outside without sunscreen in the mornings and evenings, plus he goes outside twice a day (except rainy days) at daycare. I have them put sunscreen on him in the afternoon, but not in the morning. Really, they don't need much sunlight at all.

Amstershiresauce said...

Very interesting post. Although, I EXPECT reporters to question the experts. I'd be worried if you didn't.

Shannon said...

All in all an interesting read, but I'm disappointed that the subject of Vitamin D as somehow "lacking" in breastmilk is brought up again. I think we need to ask a few things.

First of all, which came first... the decision of how much Vitamin D is the "daily recommendation" or the amount they put in formula? Interesting that they just happen to be the same... We know the RDA's for calcium are overblown - it doesn't seem like much of a stretch to think they are for Vitamin D too.

Secondly, do some research into who funded the studies that found breastmilk to be "lacking" in Vitamin D.

Vitamin D in breastmilk and Vitamin D in formula are not the same. It is an apples to oranges comparison. I notice the article doesn't mention whether these boys were breastfed or formula fed - I think that would be relevant to know.

Here is one of my favorite writings on this subject, from breastfeeding expert Dr. Jack Newman:

The following biologic information comes from recent National Geographics. For "God", feel free to substitute "evolution", "nature", or "chaos theory" (whatever that is), if you wish.

"The phalarope, a wading shorebird, has a unique way of dining on creatures too deep for it to reach. It draws them up by spinning in the water at breakneck speak. Phalaropes detect prey, thrust, seize, transport and swallow in less than half a second, at a rate of 180 pecks per minute".

But God forgot the vitamin D

"Light signals are essential to butterfly mating... Males and females have photreceptors on their sex organs. When light to the male's receptors is completely blocked, the pair's genitalia are exactly aligned and they can mate. If the light leaks, it's no go."

But God forgot the vitamin D

"Tiny blind burrowers, Namib Desert golden moles have nifty survival tricks. After hunting termites on the surface, they dig a foot or so into the African sand and remain torpid there for 19 hours or more as their bodies cool, reducing their energy needs".

But God forgot the vitamin D

"Bola spiders excel at capturing moths. Females spin a silken thread with a sticky droplet at the end. When a moth appears, the spider swings the thread until it sticks. To bring moths close, the spider uses deception. She produces chemicals similar to pheromones used by females of several moth species to attract mates. When male moths show up, they find only a fatal attraction."

But God forgot the vitamin D said...

I do have a copy of the study. I am not a doctor, so I don't want to report on the study without talking to someone who speaks the lingo. I wouldn't want to give out wrong information. I do, however, feel strongly that there is more to the vitamin D in breastmilk theory that isn't mentioned in the story. I have a really hard time believing breastfed babies would need a supplement. That just doesn't make sense.

Rachael said...

ROFL! I just copied Newman's Vitamin D info to paste in here but Shannon beat me to it! Great minds...

rachel b said...

I actually just asked my daughter's pediatrician about this early this week, after reading in Parents magazine that babies eating less than 30-some ounces of formula a day need a Vitamin D supplement. Since my 4 month old daughter is only breastfed, I was a little concerned. He told me that white-skinned babies need 15 minutes of sunlight a week. Not too hard to accomplish this time of year!

Shannon, I like the article you shared! said...

15 minutes a week? I would imagine most babies get this or easily could get this. Thanks for all the great info! I knew I could count you guys!

And Amerstershiresauce, you've come to the right place if that's what you expect!

wallaceg said...

I've seen this "God forgot vitamin D in breastmilk" thing posted in several places. Breastmilk is optimal for human infant development outdoors in sunny Africa where our species evolved. "God" assumed that our babies would get plenty of sunlight, and that's why "he" didn't put D in the milk. Most babies probably still get enough light, despite living at more extreme lattitudes and staying indoors most of the day. But some may need extra D, and it's our own fault for leaving the place we're designed for, not "God's".

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