Despite official recommendations to give infants a daily vitamin D supplement, nearly 50% of parents forget to follow this advice according to a large new Danish study. Not only do the children risk weak bones, it also increases their risk of infections and autism, other studies suggest.
Vitamin D is particularly important for developing healthy bones and teeth, a strong immune system, and a well-functioning brain. Most cells in the body have vitamin D receptors that are believed to control 5-10 percent of the body’s genes. For this reason alone, vitamin D is of vital importance, especially in early childhood.
Lack of vitamin D in childhood leads to weak bones later in life
The (Danish) health authorities recommend a 10 microgram per day vitamin D supplement to children from two weeks after birth until the age of two years. However, researchers from Odense Universitetshospital conducted a study of over 2,000 families and found that nearly half the parents gave their children too little vitamin D.
Professor Henrik Christensen, who headed the study, says that vitamin D is important for bone building and prevents bone fractures when the children are older. The study showed that 94% of the parents gave their children vitamin D, while 45% gave them less vitamin D than the amount recommended by the health authorities, or they did not give the supplement often enough.
It is easiest to give your child vitamin D as part of a regular routine
Many parents appear to have problems with remembering to give vitamin D drops to their children, so it may be a good idea to introduce the habit as part of a regular routine with meals. It is especially important during the winter period, where the sun sits too low in the sky for us humans to be able to synthesize the vitamin.
Other than that, the child is able to produce plenty of vitamin D after a short while, provided it is exposed to adequate amounts of sunlight. Be sure to avoid burning. It is impossible to get too much vitamin D from the sun or from the diet. Therefore, the health authorities recommend vitamin D supplements to small children every day all year to be on the safe side.
Just for the record, the above study was conducted before the vitamin D scandal of the summer 2016, where 80 children were hospitalized with vitamin D poisoning due to a grave labelling mistake concerning a vitamin D product named Inno Pharma. This study should certainly not discourage parents from giving vitamin D supplements to their children. A multitude of studies show that vitamin D supplements also prevent infections, autism, and several other diseases that may occur throughout life.
Vitamin D strengthens the immune defense
Danish researchers have demonstrated that the cells of the immune defense depend on vitamin D. Professor Carsten Geisler from Copenhagen University compares vitamin D to a car battery: The car cannot start without having one, and without vitamin D, the immune system is unable to activate itself for combating virus and bacteria.
Small children are particularly exposed to contamination, and because their immune defense is not fully developed, it is especially important that they have enough vitamin D – especially during the winter period where virus infections tend to circulate.
Children with autism feel better with vitamin D supplements
In a 2016 study, 109 autistic children got either vitamin D supplements or matching placebo. Lead researcher, Dr. Khaled Saad, said that among the vitamin D-treated children, there was a clear improvement of autism symptoms such as hyperactivity, social withdrawal, and other functional impairments. These improvements, however, were not observed among the children in the placebo group.
Vitamin D regulates several brain processes and controls genes, levels of the neurotransmitter, serotonin, and inflammatory processes.
The study was published in Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry in 2016
Vibeke Mikkel Hansen. Forældre glemmer, at give deres småbørn D-vitamin. DR Ligetils nyheder 05-09-2017
Khaled Sall et al. Randomized controlled trial of vitamin D supplementation in children with autism spectrum disorder. Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry. 2016
Science News. Causal link found between vitamin D, serotonin synthesis and autism in new study. Science Daily. 2014
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