Vitamin D is essential for your toddler’s normal bone development and has other important functions in the body, such as supporting immune function. Generated by the body in response to sunlight, it is also available from a limited number of foods. However, it can be a challenge to get enough through diet and sunshine alone. Discover why supplementation is recommended, and what the risks are of not getting enough.
Vitamin D: The sunshine vitamin
Vitamin D is generated by the body when UVB rays shine on the skin. It is also found in in a small number of foods. Because the most efficient natural source of vitamin D is sunlight, it is sometimes known as the sunshine vitamin.
As a fat-soluble vitamin, it is stored in fat tissue for later use if the intake exceeds the amount the body needs.
An essential ingredient for growing bones
Your toddler’s absorption of calcium and phosphorous depend on sufficient levels of vitamin D. This makes it essential for normal bone development and healthy teeth.
With your toddler’s bones growing and strengthening at a rapid rate, a steady, adequate supply of vitamin D is vital for optimal development during this stage.
Vitamin D also helps to maintain normal levels of calcium within the blood, while playing a part in immune function, growth and the ability to fight infection.
Why many toddlers aren’t getting enough vitamin D
The latitude of the UK means that we only get sufficient levels of the UVB rays required to generate vitamin D between April and October. Sunshine hours within that time are patchy, and many parents wisely use sunscreen to protect toddlers’ skin during the stronger, more effective sunlight hours. Unfortunately, this restricts the levels of sun-generated vitamin D further.
Another barrier to sun-generated vitamin D is skin pigmentation. Children with darker skin, especially those of Asian, African and Middle Eastern origin are more likely to have lower levels of vitamin D. This is because skin with more pigment requires more time in the sun to generate vitamin D than fairer skin.
There are a few food sources of vitamin D, but only oily fish contain significant amounts. However, due to the potential low levels of pollutants found in fish like salmon, sardines and tuna, it’s recommended that toddlers have no more than two servings per week. Some breakfast cereals are fortified with vitamin D, but these provide just one quarter of recommended intakes in an average (30g) bowl.
Supplement to be safe1
Due to the challenges involved in getting vitamin D, healthcare professionals advise supplementing your toddler’s diet with enough to meet their daily needs.
Aptamil Growing Up milk is fortified with vitamin D to support your toddler’s normal bone development at this important stage; two 150ml beakers provide their entire daily requirement1.
Understanding vitamin D deficiency in children
Insufficient intake of vitamin D can lead to a deficiency, which can increase your toddler’s risk of serious health issues, specifically:
- Rickets – significantly low levels of vitamin D for a prolonged period can result in soft, poorly-formed bones
- Other conditions – vitamin D deficiency has been associated with increased risks of conditions including type 1 and type 2 diabetes, allergies, asthma and cardiovascular disease
You can reduce the risk of your toddler developing future health complications related to vitamin D deficiency by ensuring they get sufficient amounts during toddlerhood and childhood.
Boost your toddler’s food intake of vitamin D with the following small meals and snacks:
- Sardines on toast triangles
- Tuna and sweetcorn mayonnaise on a jacket potato
- Scrambled eggs
- Fortified breakfast cereal as breakfast or snacks
1. Infant and toddler forum. Toddler factsheet 4.7 [Online]. 2012. Available at: https://www.infantandtoddlerforum.org/media/upload/pdf-downloads/4.7_Preventing_Vitamin_D_Deficiency_in_Toddlers.pdf [Accessed May 2014]
Last reviewed: 27th August 2014
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