Why does my child need Vitamin D?

There has been a great deal of news lately about the need, or lack thereof, for vitamin supplements. The latest research tells us that most dietary supplements don’t show benefit and in high doses, could be harmful.  Bear in mind that this recent information pertains to adults, who are advised to get the vitamins and nutrients that they need from the foods they eat.

Growing children may benefit from vitamin supplements if they don’t get the recommended daily allowances (RDA) of nutrients from their food. Vitamin D is important for bone health because it aids in the absorption of calcium. You can find it abundantly in foods such as fish, eggs and milk. When kids eat the right foods and get some daily exposure to sunlight, they shouldn’t be deficient in Vitamin D. (It’s a complex process, but basically, sunlight is a catalyst that stimulates the syntheses of Vitamin D from cholesterol in the body.)

The current guidelines from the American Academy of Pediatrics for Vitamin D call for a minimum of:

  • Ages 1-7: 600 IUs daily (IU = International Unit)
  • Age 7 and up:  800 IUs daily

Overall, the recommended range for children is 600-1000 IUs daily. We encourage parents to read labels to see how the foods their kids eat are meeting their needs. If it’s clear their diet alone can’t supply the RDA of Vitamin D, then parents should ask their pediatrician if a supplement is needed. And make sure kids get at least 15 minutes exposure to sunlight every day, protecting their skin, of course.

Vitamin D is a hot topic in science. A search of PubMed, a virtual library of scientific publications, yields more than 60,000 articles. In the lab, Vitamin D is shown to potentially play a protective role in all sorts of things, including immune function and even cancer. In people, the actual health effects are less clear.

Here at duPont Hospital for Children we’re looking at the role of Vitamin D as it relates to our patients with eczema. This is clinical research with human subjects rather than a lab-based study. Hundreds of other research studies are going on across the country and around the world. We expect that this research will result in a clearer understanding of the role of Vitamin D in human health.

Have a question for the Healthy Kids panel? Ask it here.

Read more from the Healthy Kids blog »