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Health Team

Pediatricians: Children need more vitamin D

Posted October 20, 2008 5:50 p.m. EDT
Updated October 20, 2008 7:10 p.m. EDT

— The nation's leading group of pediatricians says children are not getting enough vitamin D and should be taking vitamin D supplements to achieve the recommended amount.

But as Dr. Allen Mask explains, some nutrition experts say pills shouldn't be the first choice.

Shantel Cornelius makes sure her son gets plenty of milk every day.

“He takes about five bottles – about 6 ounces each,” Cornelius said.

When it comes to vitamin D, however, that may not be enough. The American Academy of Pediatrics has doubled the recommended daily intake of vitamin D, making it equal to the amount in 4 cups of milk, for infants and children to avoid bone diseases.

Bone strength is important, Dr. Sonia Gidwani, a pediatrician in New York, said.

“A baby might not be able to walk or (might) have bow legs,” she said. Weak bones, Gidwani said, can lead to a “higher chance of having a fracture.”

Vitamin D also may reduce the risks of cancer, diabetes and even heart disease. Kids may suffer from Vitamin D deficiency more than adults, partly because they spend too little time in the sun.

“Kids are sitting inside playing video games and spending a couple hours at night doing homework after they sat in the schools for seven to eight hours,” said Natalie Newell, a registered dietitian with Rex Healthcare.

Milk and other dairy products are a common source of vitamin D, but most kids don't even drink the old recommended amount of 2 cups a day.

More foods are supplemented with Vitamin D now, even baby formula. Or, children can take vitamin D supplements in chewable pills or drops, but that should be a last resort, Newell said.

“You can get the recommended vitamins and minerals from a healthy balanced diet. …A lot of times, I think, we're quick to say, ‘Here take this pill.’”

Fish is also a good source of Vitamin D – but for some kids, that may be an even harder pill to swallow.

By the way, doctors also recommend mothers breast-feed their children for at least a year, but the moms also needs to make sure they get enough milk to provide the nutrients their babies need.