What happens if your child doesn’t get enough vitamin D?
Rather than asking ‘what foods contain calcium’? It might be time to start asking ‘What foods contain vitamin D and calcium’? You’re likely aware of calcium as crucial for the growth of children’s bones but did you know that without vitamin D the body can’t actually absorb calcium into its bones and cells?
This is where the disease rickets – that can cause permanent bone deformities and reduced muscle growth – often shows its face. Rickets is a disease directly related to vitamin D deficiency.
Vitamin D is found mostly in oily fish - tuna, salmon and mackerel for example. You can find vitamin D in egg yolks, but you’d have to eat 9 egg yolks to achieve the recommended daily allowance. You can find it in liver, mushrooms, red meat and fortified foods, too. Interestingly mushrooms only contain vitamin D2 which is harder for your body to absorb than vitamin D3 – the type of vitamin D your body gets via the skin’s reaction to sunlight in the spring and summer and from the foods listed above other than mushrooms.
It’s very difficult to achieve the recommended daily allowance of vitamin D through food alone and – in the winter – it’s literally impossible for your body to get enough vitamin D through your skin’s reaction with sunlight, simply because this reaction only happens when the UV index is greater than 3 and this is not the case in Britain during the winter months.
Luckily, we have a few recipes that are delicious (we promise) and a great way to keep your little ones’ vitamin D levels topped up – including a mushroom, feta and spinach frittata and a fish pie. Each one has been developed by our nutritionist Rob Hobson for the purpose of increasing people’s daily intake of vitamin D.
If you’re wondering ‘is my child getting enough vitamin D’ this is a good start, but taking a supplement is recommended by the Government to make sure the recommended daily amount of vitamin D is achieved.
Try Healthspan's Vitamin D3 for Children Strawberry Oral Spray for a top-up of vitamin D for your little ones.
What else is vitamin D good for?
A study published in 2017 in the British Medical Journal found daily or weekly vitamin D supplements halved the risk of respiratory infections in people with the lowest levels of the vitamin. In people who had higher vitamin D levels, supplements cut their risk of infection by 10 per cent.
Interestingly, vitamin D might help with growing pains, too. Healthspan Medical Director Dr Sarah Brewer says, ‘Some research has shown vitamin D could protect children against growing pains. The study was based on 33 children and measured the intensity of their growing pains which decreased from a score of 7.5 to 2.7 after 3 months of vitamin supplementation’.
How much vitamin D does my child need every day?
According to Dr Sarah, ‘The average Western diet supplies 3mcg vitamin D per day and Public Health England (PHE) now recommends all adults and children aged one and over need 10mcg of vitamin D a day. The safe daily intake recommended for infants (under one) is 8.5mcg to 10mcg, but those drinking 500ml or more of infant formula don’t need supplements as formula milk is fortified with vitamin D’.