Kids and Sun: why vitamin D is important for our children
Why vitamin D is important for our children? Vitamin D is known for its positive effects on bone mineralisation as it improves calcium absorption and a safe sun exposure is recognised as the best way to get enough of it. However, recent studies have shown several other critical functions that require balanced vitamin D levels for our children.
Vitamin D is essential to maintain the natural innate immune defences that protect us from viruses and bacteria. Clinical studies reported that higher maternal intake of vitamin D during pregnancy is associated with a lower risk respiratory and ear infections in babies and others showed that kids taking Vitamin D supplements during winter months had a 58% reduced risk of the flu.
Microbiome is also important to maintain our immune system in good shape and an interesting study conducted in 2016 revealed that Vitamin D3 modulates the gut microbiome of the upper GI tract. This explains its positive influence on gastrointestinal diseases, such as inflammatory bowel disease or bacterial infections.
As the regulation of our immune responses is critical to prevent allergies as well, children with low level of vitamin D are more likely to suffer food allergies (even multiple allergies) and experience eczema and asthma.
The role of vitamin D in neuro development issues (i.e. autism, ADHD, …) is not yet clear, nevertheless the supplementation can improves the symptoms of these neurological diagnosis and several researches suggest that vitamin D plays also a critical role in conditions like depression and anxiety.
Why our children might have reduced vitamin D levels?
Both lifestyle habits and diet can negatively affect vitamin D absorption. It is available through very few foods. The ones with the most are fatty fish and fish oils and children usually don’t eat these foods a lot. There are several ‘fortified’ brands of milk, cereals, yogurt, etc., … but the quality of the added vitamin is not always optimal (i.e. D3 is better than D2) and it might not be still enough.
The main way that our bodies access vitamin D is the sun, but low vitamin D levels are increasingly common, even in sunny countries as people, including children, are spending more and more time indoor. Another reason is the increased awareness on the risk of melanoma induced by UV rays. Using sunscreen and covering up all the time has reduced the exposure to UVB rays and the Vitamin D level
As Vitamin D production induced by sun rays seem to be more effective than supplementation on our metabolism, it is important for our kids to maintain the habit of a daily sun exposure staying 20-30 minutes outdoor during winter time and at least 5-10 minutes in summer.
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Vitamin D is important for bone and muscle health, hers deficiency can cause serious complications such as osteomalacia, rickets, hypo-calcaemic seizures and cardiac problems.