Is it advisable to give vitamin D supplements to children at a young age to prevent possible consequences? We have dealt with this topic intensively in order to enlighten you as much as possible. In the following you can look forward to neutral reporting, we hope to be able to help you.
the essentials in brief
- Vitamin D does not actually belong to the group of vitamins, because it is a hormone. The body produces around 80% of its requirements itself if it absorbs enough sunlight. The other 20% can be obtained from food. Deficiency symptoms can occur in the winter months, which is why many people take vitamin D supplements during this time.
- Vitamin D is particularly important for infants, as there is no vitamin D in breast milk or formula. Not yet able to produce it from food or sunlight, they rely on supplements to avoid serious consequences.
- Long-term vitamin D deficiency can have serious consequences. Bone and tooth damage can occur. But it can also lead to more serious consequences such as damage to nerve cells or it can increase the risk of heart attacks and strokes.
Vitamin D for children: what you should know
Before giving your child supplements, you probably want to do some research first. We have answered the most important questions for you and listed possible alternatives and hope to be able to give you an overview of the topic.
What is vitamin D?
The vitamin D group basically refers to fat-soluble vitamins that are important for calcium balance and bone mineralization. The body can either absorb this vitamin through food or produce it itself through exposure to sunlight.
However, it is actually not a vitamin, because vitamins are vital organic compounds that the body has to absorb regularly because it cannot produce them itself. Vitamin D can largely (80-90%) be produced by the body itself, but only with sufficient exposure to the sun. A further 10-20% can be ingested through the diet to guarantee the full requirement.
What role does vitamin D play in a child's body?
Vitamin D is very important for bone metabolism and calcium balance. It promotes the formation of bone stem cells. In addition, vitamin D regulates the absorption of calcium in the intestine and promotes the incorporation of calcium and phosphate into the bones (also known as mineralization).
Vitamin D contributes a lot to bone health. It strengthens bones and helps prevent osteoporosis. (Image Source: Unsplash / Nino Levarani)
This strengthens the bones. The same applies to teeth, phosphate and calcium are part of strong teeth. This is all the more important for children, as they are constantly experiencing new developments at a young age. (3.4)
The already listed functions of vitamin D in the body in children are scientifically verifiable. But there are other effects, such as:
- positive effect on the cardiovascular system (1)
- Strengthening of the immune system (5.11)
- positive effect on the psyche (8)
- Chronic Pain Improvement (12)
What ingredients are in vitamin D?
There are two different forms of vitamin D that are important for health. Vitamin D2, also known as ergocalciferol, is synthesized by plants. Vitamin D3, also known as colecalciferol, is synthesized by humans when they absorb solar radiation.
Depending on the preparation, it can also contain other additives that should be avoided, especially in children or high-risk patients. This means additives such as coloring and preservatives or flavor enhancers. However, these are not always listed with the full name, but sometimes as an E number.
Accordingly, one should make sure to select high-quality preparations, because these do not contain any additives.
How do I recognize a vitamin D deficiency in children?
In general, chronic shortages are very rare in Germany because we are supplied with many resources. Especially for infants, enough vitamin D is all the more important to form healthy bones.
Most people absorb a lot of vitamin D in the summer when they spend a lot of time in the sun. However, it is very easy for children to get sunburned, which in turn promotes skin cancer. Accordingly, children usually wear clothing with UV protection and sunscreen with a high sun protection factor in summer.
In this way, the natural absorption of vitamin D is almost completely prevented. Vitamin D can also be obtained from a good diet, but sunlight is the main source.
The following diseases or disorders can prevent the body from producing vitamin D on its own:
- Chronic inflammatory bowel disease
- Chronic renal dysfunction
- Taking epilepsy medication
- disturbance of liver function
If a child suffers from one of these diseases, it is all the more important to pay attention to possible symptoms of a vitamin D deficiency. To make it easier for you to recognize the symptoms, we show you the most common deficiency symptoms.
- increased susceptibility to infections
- swollen joints
- Defects of the tooth enamel / tooth decay
- a so-called frog belly, where the abdominal muscles seem weakened
If you notice these symptoms, you should urgently consult a doctor to avoid further consequences.
Breast milk and formula milk do not contain enough vitamin D, so paediatricians recommend supplementing with vitamin D. A vitamin D deficiency in infants can result in the bone disease rickets.
What are the consequences of a vitamin D deficiency for a child?
A vitamin D deficiency can have health consequences as it is necessary for many functions in the body. It is not only involved in metabolic processes, but it is the direct precursor to a hormone that controls many processes in the body.
Many of these consequences only become apparent after a long time, but can usually be quickly improved by taking vitamin D. However, serious consequences such as damage to bones, teeth or nerves are not easy to improve, so one should always pay attention to the symptoms. (2,3,7)
We have compiled the most common episodes in a table for you so that you can get an overview:
|cells||Vitamin D controls important cell processes, a deficiency leads to a dysfunctional cell metabolism and organ disease|
|Annoy||Vitamin D is important for the maintenance of the nerves, a deficiency can lead to chronic pain and nerve diseases.|
|Brain||Vitamin D is important for the maintenance of neurons and the formation of neurotransmitters, a deficiency can lead to dementia and psychiatric diseases.|
|blood pressure||Vitamin D controls blood pressure, a deficiency can lead to vascular disease, heart attacks and strokes.|
How important is vitamin D for a child's body?
Vitamin D is generally very important for children, but also for the soul. It is important for the calcium balance and regulates the formation and breakdown of bones. But it is just as important for the muscles, the brain and the teeth. We have already listed the possible consequences for the previous question. These should help illustrate the importance of vitamin D to a child's overall health. (13.14)
You always want your little ones to be happy. It is therefore very important to find out about possible vitamin D preparations for infancy so that you do not lack anything. (Image Source: Unsplash / Omar Lopez)
However, it is particularly important for infants, because their bodies are not yet able to absorb sunlight and convert it into vitamin D at this point. Since breast milk does not contain much vitamin D either, an additional dose is essential to prevent further consequences such as bone damage.
How to dose vitamin D for children?
As already mentioned, it is particularly important for infants to receive an additional dose of vitamin D z. The recommended daily dose for infants is 400-500 international units (10 micrograms) per day. According to the DGE (German Society for Nutrition), one vitamin D tablet covers this need.
Unless the birth weight is less than 1500 grams, an amount of 800-1000 International Units (IU) is recommended.
For older children, an average daily dose of 600-800 IU is recommended, but this can be easily covered with sunlight and a good diet. Consider an extra dose during the winter months, when the sun doesn't shine that often.
To give you a brief overview of which foods contain vitamin D, we have put together a small table for you:
|Groceries||Vitamin D content in grams|
|Processed cheese (45% fat)||3.1g|
|Porcini mushroom (raw)||3.1g|
When and for whom is it useful to take vitamin D?
The intake is particularly useful for children, as they usually do not get enough sunlight to produce vitamin D themselves. Babies in particular are dependent on vitamin D to avoid tooth and bone problems. Since breast milk and formula milk also contain no vitamin D, the natural absorption of vitamin D is impossible.
That is why paediatricians recommend an additional dose of vitamin D up to the first year of life.
But even after that, an additional dose is not uncommon, since children still mostly wear sunscreen with a high sun protection factor to avoid sunburn. Accordingly, vitamin D can hardly be produced despite sunlight. (6.9)
Vitamin D is known to strengthen bones and teeth. In adults, a deficiency can lead to softening of the bones (osteomalacia) or even to the breaking down of the bones (osteoporosis). Accordingly, adults and seniors should also pay attention to their vitamin D balance.
What are the side effects of taking vitamin D in children?
An excess of vitamin D through natural intake is actually impossible. However, if you take high-dose vitamin D preparations without paying attention to the recommended daily dose, an overdose (vitamin D poisoning) can occur. (10)
Who daily more than 100 micrograms risks side effects, such as kidney stones. This is because the body does not simply excrete such a large amount of vitamin D, it is stored in fat and muscle tissue.
Excessive vitamin D intake can produce both acute and chronic overdose. Acute poisoning occurs when a very large dose is ingested at once. Chronic overdose occurs when you take too high a dose over a long period of time.
To catch an overdose early, there are a few symptoms you can look out for:
- nausea and vomiting
- loss of appetite
- Strong thirst
- feeling weak
What do vitamin D supplements cost?
If you have decided to buy vitamin D supplements, we recommend that you do your research carefully. Because there may be cheaper preparations in the drugstore or in the online trade, but it is possible that these are dosed too high or contain additives. It doesn't have to be that way, but to avoid overdosing or having an allergic reaction to any of the additives, be careful.
They are available in various dosage forms such as powder, tablets, drops, chewable tablets, capsules or gummy bears. Gummy bears are a good idea for children, as they are often eaten without problems. Many children are not very good at swallowing tablets or capsules when they are young. We believe you should discuss your safety decision with a doctor.
In pharmacies or health food stores, the preparations will be a bit more expensive, but the employees know the products well and are specialized in them. Accordingly, you will find high-quality products there and also receive good advice.
What alternatives are there to vitamin D supplements?
There are also alternatives to vitamin D preparations, including methods by which vitamin D can be obtained naturally. On the other hand, there are other vitamins whose function is important for the body.
A varied diet can cover a certain vitamin D requirement. Foods such as herring, eel or camembert contain a lot of vitamin D. In order to prevent a deficiency, it is advisable to pay attention to this in your diet. However, you cannot cover the entire daily requirement with it.
The body can produce most of its own vitamin D when it absorbs sunlight. Natural sunlight is very important for the body and soul. However, UV rays damage the skin cells and in the worst case this can lead to skin cancer. To avoid this, you should always wear sunscreen with a high sun protection factor.
Vitamin A, also called retinol, is important for many functions in your body. On the one hand it is very important for the immune system, on the other hand it is good for the skin. For people between 19 and 64, the daily requirement is around 600-700 µg per day. Vitamin A is found in foods like cheese, fish, eggs, yogurt and liver.
Vitamin B is important for nervous system health and converting food into energy. A daily dose of 1 mg is recommended per day. Foods such as whole grains, nuts, fruits such as bananas or oranges and liver products are particularly rich in vitamin B.
Vitamin C is important for the protection of cells, blood vessels and bones, as well as for healthy skin. Vitamin C also helps in wound healing. Good sources of vitamin C are citrus fruits, peppers, broccoli, potatoes and strawberries.
Vitamin E is important for healthy eyes, bones and skin. In addition, vitamin E also contributes to strengthening the immune system. Various oils such as sunflower oil or olive oil, nuts and seeds or cereals offer a high vitamin E content.
Vitamin K is a group of vitamins that is very important for blood circulation, wound healing and bone health. Similar to vitamin E, vitamin K is present in various oils (mainly olive oil), grains, and green vegetables like broccoli and spinach.
Does an additional dose of vitamin D now make sense? Clearly for infants: yes. Babies need vitamin D, but cannot produce it themselves because there is no sunlight. For children it depends on whether they get enough sunlight and how varied their diet is. Since children usually wear a high sun protection factor when they are in the sun, the body cannot absorb the sunlight well.
In the winter months you can use an additional intake particularly well, since the sun hardly shines at all. Accordingly, a vitamin D supplement for children is highly recommended, but there are other vitamins that should not be neglected.
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