Pediatrics: Most Babies and New Moms Need More Vitamin D
According to a new study published in the journal Pediatrics, by the American Academy of Pediatrics, most infants are not meeting the recommended daily intake for vitamin D set at 400 international units (IU) a day.
According to research by the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), only 5 to 37% of American infants met the RDA for vitamin D. Those who are breastfed were often more deficient, obtaining only about 5 to 13%.
Breastfeeding, while the best source of nutrition for babies, is often lacking in vitamin D, so pediatricians often recommend supplements in the form of inexpensive liquid drops. Even the formula-fed children did not meet the recommended intake, although formula is fortified with vitamin D. Babies need to drink about 32 ounces of the formula a day to meet this requirement, difficult for those younger than six months, so pediatricians often recommend the vitamin D supplements for young infants as well.
However, the study also found that only 1 to 13% of infants are actually taking those prescribed supplements.
Children under the age of one are recommended to consume only breast milk or formula, not cow’s milk, which is fortified in vitamin D. Other foods rich in vitamin D are also not typically recommended for young infants, such as fatty fish and eggs.
A second study in the same journal found that new moms were also deficient in vitamin D. Blood tests taken of newborns and mothers revealed that 58% of the infants and 36% of the mothers were deficient in vitamin D. Even a third of the moms who were compliant with prenatal vitamins were found to be deficient.
Vitamin D is a very important nutrient for bone growth in children. Deficiency can lead to bone softening and a condition known as rickets. It is also involved in the immune system, and may prevent respiratory infections and type 1 diabetes in children. Having adequate vitamin D stores in childhood may also lead to a reduction of chronic adult conditions, such as heart disease, high blood pressure, and type 2 diabetes.
The recommended daily intake was raised by the AAP in 2008 to 400 IU. Most pediatricians are more familiar with the older recommendations of 200 IU set in 2003.
Sunlight is one way that humans receive vitamin D. It is thought that because the first humans on earth were near the equator, that sunlight once provided the body all that it needed. But today, many people, particularly those in Northern and colder climates, cannot meet their needs with sunlight alone and need to consume the vitamin from foods.
Babies under the age of six months are advised by the American Academy of Pediatrics to avoid all direct sunlight, leaving dietary sources as their only supply. Babies over six months should always wear protective sunscreen, hats, and clothing to prevent sunburn and skin damage.
Source Reference: "Adherence to Vitamin D Recommendations Among U.S. Infants," published in the April issue of Pediatrics (released online March 22), American Academy of Pediatrics