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Vitamin D - Diet and Benefits

Submitted by Stella Morgan on December 9, 2009

Vitamin D is extremely essential for growing children as it supports the immune system and helps develop and maintain strong bones. Children with a deficiency of Vitamin D are likelier to have weak bones that make them susceptible to fractures, osteoporosis and rickets which is a disease common in children suffering from malnutrition in developing countries. Some studies conclude that the deficiency if chronic may put the child under the risk of conditions like high blood pressure, diabetes and sometimes even cancer.

High risk categories of children with a Vitamin D deficiency are those who live a sedentary life style and do not step outside, those who consume mostly junk food, ethnic groups with more melanin content in their body and those living in the northern latitudes where sunlight is a minimal during the winter. Sometimes the kidneys are unable to convert Vitamin D to its active form or the absorption of the vitamin from the digestive tract does not meet the needs of the body.

If the child belongs to a strictly vegetarian family, has an allergy to milk or a lactose intolerance, it may give rise to a deficiency of the vitamin.

The major source for Vitamin D in children is sunlight and hence it is advisable to let the child play outdoors in the early hours of the morning or evenings. Direct exposure to the sun during the day without a sunscreen may cause the child to become tanned, sunburnt and even expose the child to the risk of skin cancer. Babies who are being breast fed and toddlers who do not drink enough milk will require Vitamin D supplements.

While infants can be given multivitamin supplements, toddlers and young children can be given cow’s milk and soy milk which are fortified with Vitamin D. Fish such as tuna, mackerel and salmon, apart from fish liver oil contain the necessary Vitamin and it is also found in small quantities in egg yolk, cheese and beef liver. Mushrooms, margarine, yoghurt and orange juice fortified with Vitamin D are also available in the market and will supplement the child’s diet.

Excess Vitamin D may cause toxicity in the body and is symptomised by lack of appetite, nausea, vomiting, weakness, loss of weight and constipation.

It can sometimes cause confusion and related disorientation, raise the level of calcium in the blood and abnormalities in the heart rhythm. If the child consumes large amounts of cod liver oil, there are chances for toxicity and hence it i important to keep track of the deficiency.    

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