I spent a lot of my childhood playing outdoors. I was fortunate enough to live in a neighbourhood full of children. Even if one of us was missing during our scheduled play hours, the rest would storm into our houses and physically drag us out and make sure we joined them.
Nobody complained of the sun, or the lack of it. Our only focus was to have a good time. And we did! In the process we also got a good measure of fresh air and sunlight – both of which are sadly deprived to the present day generation kids. We probably got exposed to a little more sun than needed, but who cared? Looking back it has stood us in good stead. At least we didn’t have to worry about our daily dose of Vitamin D!
The worldwide statistics for vitamin D deficiency amongst children are quite alarming. Surveys show that millions of children having disturbingly low levels of vitamin D – 90% of which comes from sun exposure. So how would they get their source of the sunshine mineral if cooped up at home all day? Unfortunately, even parents don’t realize the importance of this micronutrient.
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Why do kids need Vitamin D?
Vitamin D helps in your child’s bone development. It makes their bones strong and healthy. Inadequate levels of vitamin D can lead to rickets, a disease with bone deformities.
Vitamin D also helps in building a healthy immune system – keeping infections away and preventing the onset of early arthritis. Research also suggests that vitamin D can also help in protecting against a host of health problems like heart disease, cancer and diabetes.
How to tell if your child is suffering from vit D deficiency?
Here are some tell tale signs that should be a cause for concern
- Curved legs due to soft leg bones. The child often complains of pain in the leg due to weakness. This condition is known as Rickets.
- Low rate of immunity leading to high infection rates; high risk of allergies
- Breathing can be affected as the rib cage becomes soft.
- Poor growth and weight gain. The overall growth becomes slow.
- Delayed teething
What causes the deficiency?
The main cause of the vitamin D deficiency is the lack of adequate exposure to the sun.
Other factors include dark skin ( the higher pigmentation of melanin in dark skinned prevents absoption of sunlight) obesity, lack of vitamin D in the diet and other health conditions.
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Top Sources of Vitamin D
The best source of Vitamin D is of course the sun – sans the sunscreen. Apart from soaking up the sun, here are some foods that are a great source of vitamin D
- Milk, cheese and all other diary products
- Egg yolk
- Soya milk
- Infant formula milk
- Oily fish
- Fortified orange juice
- Cod liver oil.
Is vitamin D deficiency preventable?
Yes, it is!
- Pregnant and Lactating mothers should ensure that they take adequate Vitamin D supplements to prevent deficiency in infants and toddlers
- Allow kids to play out in the the sun – unprotected – for at least 20 minutes
- Prepare a diet rich in the multivitamin.