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Supplements and milk are most important for children’s vitamin D levels, say researchers

2 commentsBy Nathan Gray , 15-Jan-2013
Last updated on 15-Jan-2013 at 16:49 GMT2013-01-15T16:49:54Z

Supplements and milk are most important for children’s vitamin D

Consumption of cow’s milk and vitamin D supplements are the two most important factors determining a child’s vitamin D status, according to a new study.

Writing in the Archives of Pediatrics and Adolescent Medicine, researchers from the Canada have found that consumption of milk and vitamin supplements play the most important role in determining levels of circulating vitamin D in children under the age of six.  

Both were better at predicting a child’s vitamin D stores than skin colour or exposure to the sun, said the team led by to Dr Jonathon Maguire from St. Michael's Hospital, Canada.

"Early childhood is a critical stage in human development, so achieving and maintaining optimal vitamin D levels in early childhood may be important to health outcomes in later childhood and adulthood," said Maguire.

"When it comes to maintaining sufficient vitamin D stores in young children, the story is about dietary intake of vitamin D through vitamin D supplementation and cow's milk" he explained.

However, Amy-Jane Valender, scientific and regulatory manager for the British Specialist Nutrition Association warned that the research results come from a study based in Canada, where milk is fortified with vitamin D. As a result she warns that the findings of the study may not be directly applicable to other countries.

“This is not the case in the UK and in many other countries in the EU,” said Valender. “Unfortified cows’ milk is not a good source of vitamin D - it follows that consumption of cows’ milk in these countries is unlikely to benefit vitamin D status.”

Maguire added that he was ‘surprised’ to find that 57% of the children in his study were taking a regular vitamin D supplement. 

Study details

Low levels of vitamin D deficiency is suggested to be a risk factor for a number of illnesses, including asthma and allergies in children, while severe deficiency can lead to rickets.

Maguire and his team studied vitamin D blood tests of 1,896 health children under 6 years of age as part of the TARGet Kids! Study (The Applied Research Group for Kids!).

The program follows children from birth with the aim of preventing common nutrition problems in the early years and understanding their impact on health and disease later in life.

Analysis showed that the two factors most strongly associated with higher vitamin D stores in children under 6 years of age were taking a daily vitamin D supplement and drinking two cups of cow’s milk a day.

Both of those factors were better at predicting a child's vitamin D stores than skin colour or measures of exposure to the sun, said Maguire.

Source: Archives of Pediatrics and Adolescent Medicine
Published online ahead of print, doi: 10.1001/2013.jamapediatrics.226
“Modifiable Determinants of Serum 25-Hydroxyvitamin D Status in Early Childhood
Authors: Jonathon L. Maguire, Catherine S. Birken, Marina Khovratovich, Julie DeGroot, Sarah Carsley, et al

2 comments (Comments are now closed)

Sun exposure and the right foods

Surely Dr Maguire has to be having a lend. From an evolutionary point of view we never had vitamin D supplements or Vitamin D fortified milk to give our children.
We need some degree of sun exposure to convert cholesterol to vitamin D and for those people in the Northern areas like Canada, cold water fatty fish are an important source as well as free range eggs, butter and raw milk that doesn't need fortification because it already contains Vitamin D.
Not to mention the fact that it is totally innappropriate to single out one nutrient like Vitamin D for importance without worrying about all of the other fat soluble vitamins too like Vitamin E, A and K1 and K2. That is why it is much more appropriate to look at correct dietary sources that might help to satisfy all of these needs.
The way of Dr Maguire is medicalism gone mad!

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Posted by Brad
22 January 2013 | 05h032013-01-22T05:03:38Z

We need the sun

Yes, supplements and milk are important in the first years of life as well as the rest of your life but, so is the sun! That is the most natural way of receiving vitamin D without getting toxicity. Now-a-days kids stay inside and play games on their game consuls or watch tv and they don't go out and play in the sun like they used to. I feel that has a big part in why rickets are coming back into the picture and playing a part in our kids lives.
Nobody said they need to cook out in the sun but, it would be good for them to go outside for a half hour to an hour with no sunscreen on and receive vitamin D the way God intended us to, the sun. It could save your child's from many different sicknesses as well as your own!

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Posted by Lauren
17 January 2013 | 04h312013-01-17T04:31:37Z

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