Most people know that direct sunshine hitting our skin produces vitamin D. Research now indicates that vitamin D is vitally important, in many ways, for a child’s health.
When we are outside and have exposure to direct sunlight on our skin vitamin D is produced. For many years we didn’t know the wide-ranging benefits of vitamin D. It was found that vitamin D is important for the strength of our bones. Children deficient in vitamin D developed a condition called Rickets. Vitamin D helps calcium be absorbed and deposited into bones. This makes the bones stronger. If children did not have enough vitamin D their bones were a weak and this condition was named Rickets. As a result milk was fortified with vitamin D and Rickets was virtually eliminated in the United States.
However, in recent years we have found that the health benefits of vitamin D are very wide ranging, especially for children. This article will describe some recent research outlining health benefits of vitamin D.
Vitamin D is produced in the body as a result of exposure to ultraviolet B (UVB) rays of the sun.
Scientific Reports, June 2019 showed an analysis of data concerning over 422,000 mother-child pairs in Scotland and revealed that kids born to women with lower levels of exposure to UVB rays during pregnancy were more likely to have a learning disability later in life. Lead author Dr. Jill Pell notes, “Learning disabilities can have profound lifelong effects on both the affected child and their family. The importance of our study is that it suggests a possible way to prevent learning disabilities in some children.” We can see that it is important for women to have adequate levels of vitamin D through their pregnancy.
Another study in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, March 2010 children who had adequate levels of vitamin D were less likely to become ill with the flu.
Still another scientific study published in the Journal Medical Hypothesis, 2008 indicated that women who had low vitamin D levels during their pregnancy were more likely to have children who developed autism.
When we talk of vitamin D we should be more specific and note that the actual exact type of vitamin D needed is vitamin D3. Vitamin D3 must be obtained through one of two extraneous methods. The first is by receiving direct sunlight to our skin. If one were to be outside, with a short sleeve shirt and shorts, thus exposing the arms, legs and head and neck to the sun for 20 minutes one would obtain sufficient vitamin D for that day. It should be said that no sunscreen should be worn during this time, but can be applied after 20 minutes. We require repeated exposures over the course of weeks and perhaps months to raise our vitamin D levels to a sufficient, healthy amount. Vitamin D3 is transferred from a pregnant woman to a developing fetus.
Another way to obtain vitamin D3 is orally. A pregnant woman could take a supplement of 5000 IUs a day, through the course of her pregnancy to obtain sufficient levels. Children should take a lesser amount. It would be wise for a pregnant women to consult with her obstetrician and for a child to have a consultation with a pediatrician as to their specific vitamin D requirements. Many times physicians will perform a simple blood test to evaluate an individual’s vitamin D3 levels and suggest measures to make improvements.
It is important for all people to have adequate vitamin D levels. This appears especially so for pregnant women and children. Everyone is urged to check with their healthcare physician to determine their vitamin D levels and take appropriate action if they are deficient.