Thursday, October 16, 2008

Doubling Vitamin D for Children Could Prevent Serious Diseases

children—newborns to teens—should get double the amount of vitamin D that is usually recommended to help prevent serious diseases. The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) said that to meet the new recommendation of 400 units daily, millions of children will need to take supplements of vitamin D every day. This also includes infants who are being breastfed, infants who are using certain formulas, and teens that drink little or no milk at all.

Breast milk, recommended for at least the first year of life, can be deficient in vitamin D, so supplementation would be recommended. Most infant formulas currently contain the higher dose of vitamin D and will not need additional supplements.

The most commercially available milk is fortified with vitamin D, but most children and teens today do not drink enough of it. To meet the new requirements Dr. Frank Greer, the report’s co-author, stated that four cups of milk a day would be needed.

Recent studies conducted have shown that many children do not get enough of vitamin D, and cases of rickets, which is a bone disorder that is often associated with malnourishment in the 1800s, continue to happen. This new advice by the AAP is based on mounting research that is about the potential benefits from vitamin D besides keeping our bones strong, which includes suggestions that it could reduce risks for cancer, heart disease, and diabetes. However, the evidence isn’t conclusive and there is no consensus on how much of the vitamin D would be need to prevent these diseases. This new advice is replacing a 2003 Academy recommendation for 200 units per day.

The previous amount of 200 units was the government’s recommendation for children and adults up to age 50. The amount of 400 units a day is recommended for adult’s age’s 51 to 70 and 600 units is recommended for people age 71 and up. Vitamin D is usually purchased in drops for young children and capsules and tablets for everyone else.

The Institute of Medicine, which is a government advisory group that sets the dietary standards, is currently discussing with federal agencies whether those recommended amounts should be changed based on the emerging research. The new recommendations were prepared for release on Monday at an academy conference in Boston. They are going to be published in the November issue of the Academy’s journal called Pediatrics.

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