Family & Children HealthHealthy Kids › Health Check: Are Your Kids Getting Enough Vitamin D?

I was disappointed to hear the results of a new study about vitamin D levels in our children. Researchers found that about 70 percent of U.S. children have low levels of vitamin D, a problem that puts them at higher risk for bone and heart disease - among other things. Some groups were even more susceptible to insufficient levels of the sunshine vitamin, including girls, African- and Mexican-Americans, obese kids, kids who drank milk less than once a week, and kids who spent more than four hours per day engaged in couch potato-type activities like watching TV, playing video games or using computers.

The researchers called the results "shocking," but I can’t say I’m surprised. It’s tough for our kids to get enough vitamin D. Our body can produce it when our skin is exposed to sunlight sometime between the hours of about 10 am and 3 pm, but today’s kids are often indoors most of the day. And when they are outdoors we parents do a great job of using sunscreen to prevent dangerous burns, which creates a barrier to the vitamin D production. Most foods do not contain a significant amount of vitamin D, and it’s hard to ingest enough vitamin D-fortified milk, yogurt, cereals, and breads to get the recommended 400 IU/day that the American Academy of Pediatrics now recommends for kids (Read more about their recommendations). Kids can get a full day’s supply from just one 3.5-oz serving of a fatty fish such as catfish and salmon, but eating too much fish has its own risks, and despite the many benefits of fish, the way we have polluted our waters has prompted the FDA and EPA to recommend that young children only get two meals a week of fish or shellfish low in mercury.

One easy and efficient way to ensure your kids get the vitamin D they need is to give them a multivitamin supplement every day with 400 IU of vitamin D. The study showed that kids who did take supplements were less likely to be deficient in vitamin D, but only 4 percent of the kids in the study took supplements! I hope the findings of this study and the increased attention to kids’ nutrition will encourage more parents to safeguard their children’s vitamin levels with a good multivitamin. Read more about choosing the right supplements…

2004 EPA and FDA Advisory: What You Need to Know About Mercury in Fish and Shellfish

By following these three recommendations for selecting and eating fish or shellfish, women and young children will receive the benefits of eating fish and shellfish and be confident that they have reduced their exposure to the harmful effects of mercury.

1.     Do not eat Shark, Swordfish, King Mackerel, or Tilefish because they contain high levels of mercury.

2.     Eat up to 12 ounces (2 average meals) a week of a variety of fish and shellfish that are lower in mercury.
o     Five of the most commonly eaten fish that are low in mercury are shrimp, canned light tuna, salmon, pollock, and catfish.
o     Another commonly eaten fish, albacore ("white") tuna has more mercury than canned light tuna. So, when choosing your two meals of fish and shellfish, you may eat up to 6 ounces (one average meal) of albacore tuna per week.

3.     Check local advisories about the safety of fish caught by family and friends in your local lakes, rivers, and coastal areas. If no advice is available, eat up to 6 ounces (one average meal) per week of fish you catch from local waters, but don’t consume any other fish during that week.

Follow these same recommendations when feeding fish and shellfish to your young child, but serve smaller portions.

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Article By: Cindy Paiva

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