Vitamin D – Really Important or Just a Trend?

Up until recently, most of us who see children regularly, didn’t often check Vitamin D levels in children. Sure, significant Vitamin D deficiency can cause bone problems such as rickets, but that is uncommon in the Australian childhood population. Unless rickets was suspected, Vitamin D levels were hardly ever checked.

But things have changed – we now go looking for Vitamin D deficiency all the time. Why? There have been some good recent studies in the medical literature that have ascribed new importance to Vitamin D, not only for bone health, but also in the prevention of some diseases long term, such as cardiovascular disease, and more significantly for children, brain growth and development.

Somewhat surprisingly, now that we look for Vitamin D deficiency, we are now also finding it. Sometimes this is expected, sometimes it’s not. Fussy feeders are not uncommonly Vitamin D deficient. Newborns born to mums with Vitamin D deficiency during pregnancy are often also Vitamin D deficient, sometimes despite mums taking supplements during pregnancy.

Where does Vitamin D come from? Classically from sunlight and much less so from our diet. Dietary Vitamin D intake hasn’t really changed in childhood populations over time, but exposure to sunlight certainly has – essentially as a result of skin cancer prevention measures: less time in the sun, and the wearing of increasingly more protective sunscreens. Prolonged breastfeeding can be a problem due to the lack of Vitamin D in breast milk. Changing populations from a migration perspective also alter the incidence of deficiency ie the increased numbers of dark-skinned and veiled ethnicities migrating to Australia.

So do parents need to worry? Usually not. If your child is a good eater, and spends sensible periods of time outside, they will probably not be Vitamin D deficient. If this is not the case, a simple blood test through your GP or Paediatrician can easily detect any deficiency.

If your child is Vitamin D deficient, this can easily be corrected with a Vitamin D supplement. This does come as a liquid, allowing for easy administration to children. Generally speaking, multivitamins in addition to the specific Vitamin D supplement are not required in children, unless they have a specific chronic disease that prevents the appropriate absorption of vitamins and minerals from the diet – save your money!

So, just a trend? I don’t think so. Definitely a consideration in the overall health of our children, but not a worrying problem, and something that is easily fixed.