VITAMIN D FOR CHILDREN
Why is vitamin D important for your child’s health and development?
Low levels of vitamin D are widespread and this is recognised as a significant health problem due to the importance of vitamin D for many aspects of health (1). Best known is the role of vitamin D in helping the body to absorb calcium and build strong, healthy bones and teeth. Insufficient vitamin D in childhood can lead to poor bone strength and in an increasing number of cases, rickets, where the bones become misshapen and the legs may bow. Vitamin D is also important for development of strong, healthy muscles: low vitamin D is associated with muscle weakness and poor muscle function (3).
The importance of vitamin D for healthy immune function has recently been recognised and there is mounting evidence that it plays a pivotal role (2). Vitamin D deficiency has been related to a number of common childhood conditions that involve the immune system, including allergies (4). It is also important for a healthy, balanced inflammatory response (2), which is relevant in conditions like asthma and eczema. There is an association between lower vitamin D levels and increased severity of asthma (5) and also atopic dermatitis (eczema): one small study found that vitamin D supplementation was helpful particularly for children with winter-related eczema (6). Insufficient vitamin is also associated with a lowered immune response to infections (4). One study showed that vitamin D supplementation reduced the risk of winter flu in Japanese nursery school children (7).
Owing to the importance of vitamin D for children’s healthy development, the Department of Health and NHS recommend that children aged 1 to 4 years old should be given a daily supplement containing 400iu (10μg) of vitamin D (8).
Health benefits of vitamin D
- Helps the body absorb calcium to build strong bones and teeth
- Important for muscle development
- Support healthy, balanced immune function
- Lower risk of eczema and severe asthma for children with sufficient vitamin D
- Fewer respiratory and other infections in infants with sufficient vitamin D
- Roberto Antonucci, Cristian Locci, Maria Grazia Clemente, Elena Chicconi and Luca Antonucci (2018) Vitamin D deficiency in childhood: old lessons and current challenges. Journal of Pediatric Endocrinology and Metabolism V31 (3) DOI: https://doi.org/10.1515/jpem-2017-0391 Published online: 05 Feb 2018 https://www.degruyter.com/view/journals/jpem/31/3/article-p247.xml
- Armin Zittermann and Jan F. Gummert (2010) Nonclassical Vitamin D Actions Nutrients 2010, 2, 408-425; doi:10.3390/nu2040408 https://www.mdpi.com/2072-6643/2/4/408/htm
- Girgis CM, Clifton-Bligh RJ, Hamrick MW, Holick MF, Gunton JF. The roles of vitamin D in skeletal muscle: form, function, and metabolism. Endocr Rev 2013;34:33–83.
- Saggese G, Vierucci F, Boot AM, Czech-Kowalska J, Weber G, et al. Vitamin D in childhood and adolescence: an expert position statement. Eur J Pediatr 2015;174:565–76.
- Dogru M, Kirmizibekmez H, Yesiltepe Mutlu RG, Aktas A, Ozturkmen S. Clinical effects of vitamin D in children with asthma. Int Arch Allergy Immunol 2014;164:319–25.
- Camargo CA Jr, Ganmaa D, Sidbury R, Erdenedelger Kh, Radnaakhand N, et al. Randomized trial of vitamin D supplementation for winter-related atopic dermatitis in children. J Allergy Clin Immunol 2014;134:831–5.
- Urashima, M.; Segawa, T.; Okazaki, M.; Kurihara, M.; Wada, Y.; Ida, H. Randomized trial of vitamin D supplementation to prevent seasonal influenza A in schoolchildren. Am. J. Clin. Nutr. 2010.
- https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/pregnancy-and-baby/vitamins-for-children/ (Advice correct as at 16th June 2020)