Vitamin D is one of those nutrients that we often forget about yet is very important. Suddenly, it’s having a come back and becoming a hot topic.
So what’s the fuss about?
Hands up if you know what vitamin D is even needed for? Those of you who said bone health get a gold star. Vitamin D helps your body absorb calcium, specifically your gut. It helps you maintain the levels of calcium and phosphate in the body so that you have enough for bone mineralisation and bone growth. It also plays a role in cell growth, immune function and reducing inflammation in the body.
Too little vitamin D affects your bones, they can become thin and brittle. Rickets in children and osteomalacia/osteoporosis in adults are due to too low vitamin D levels. Worryingly rickets is on the rise in the UK, as is osteoporosis. So we really need to be thinking about looking after our bones.
Children 1-7 months need 8.5μg/d and those aged 7months-3 years 7μg/d, pregnant and breastfeeding women 10μg/d. There are no set levels for those 3-64 years.
Most people know we make vitamin D when we step into the sunshine, however there are numerous issues with this. To get enough of the right type of sun’s rays all year round you need to live in the right area of the world. In the UK we unsuprisingly don’t fall into that category. Having pale skin means you accrue vitamin D 10 times faster than darker skinned people, but we are now out in the sun less and less, plus when we are out there is usually sun cream on the skin preventing the UVB rays getting through and so stopping vitamin D being made. Somewhere we need a balance.
After World War II the NHS was born (1947) and vitamin drops were given to all children under 5 for free, these included vitamin D. This is not standard practice now and many little ones are not getting enough of the D love in their life. In fact my little one wasn’t until recently.
But what about vitamin D in foods I hear you all cry…well that’s the main problem, it’s not found in that many foods. Here’s a few – oily fish, some canned fish, shitake mushrooms, eggs and fortified cereals and margarine. In America milk, orange juice and cheese is all fortified too. There’s a debate over whether more foods in the UK should be fortified at the moment. What do you think? Do you give your little ones a supplement?