From Sun to Supplements: Vitamin D is Vital to Your Child’s Health
Dr. Nihar Parekh, Paediatrician and Director, Cheers Child Care, shares his views on the role of Vitamin D in child growth.
Vitamin D is extremely important for the growth and development of a child right through infancy, i.e., immediately after birth through toddlerhood, pre-school, school-going, and adolescent age. It has a strong role to play even in adulthood and old age.
Understanding Vitamin D
Vitamin D is technically a hormone that is secreted naturally by the body. This is produced when the body is exposed to sunlight. Above and beyond, Vitamin D should be supplemented for children, either through breast milk when the mother is taking Vitamin D, a fortified formula or regular daily doses of Vitamin D. Vitamin D is an extremely important nutrient because it helps push calcium and phosphorus, which are consumed dietarily, from the bloodstream into the bones, making the bones strong.
The Vital Role of Vitamin D: Beyond Strong Bones
Vitamin D also has a great role in increasing the immunity of a child. In fact, it is the only vitamin or hormone that is known to increase the body’s capacity to fight infection. It has been linked with having good mental health and preventing cancer later in life.
Vitamin D also facilitates the development of other organ systems. Known as a neurosteroid, it helps in the development of the brain and protects the good antioxidant hormone of the brain, which is glutathione (GSH). This allows glutathione to perform its antioxidant functions optimally.
Moreover, Vitamin D helps in maintaining the child’s circadian rhythm, i.e., the sleep rhythm. Melatonin, the body’s natural hormone that maintains the normal sleep cycle, requires Vitamin D to function. Like we all know, most of the growth and immunity-building in children happen when they are sleeping. If the child sleeps well, their overall growth is better — mentally, physically, and behaviourally. So, Vitamin D per se, by setting the circadian rhythm and helping melatonin perform its function, does a great job in the overall development of the child.
Vitamin D even helps in maintaining skin elasticity in growing children, which prevents skin from becoming too sensitive, helps in reducing episodes of eczema and atopic dermatitis, and strengthens the skin.
Hair follicles are known to grow in number with proper doses of Vitamin D.
Children who have rickets, due to severe Vitamin D deficiency, are often seen to have poor skin and hair quality.
Vitamin D is known as the magic hormone, and if given in the right doses over long periods of time, either directly or through fortification of food, it can prevent illnesses and help boost immunity and overall growth and development. Its deficiency prevents the child from meeting their growth milestones.
So, it is extremely important that we place stress on the food and nutrition that a child gets and ensure the consumption of daily Vitamin D.
Vitamin D deficiency causes the bones to get soft in young kids and causes a disease known as rickets. In older children and adolescents, it can lead to weak and brittle bones. This subclinical Vitamin D deficiency is associated with osteoporosis and an increased risk of falls and fractures. Many conflicting recent studies show an association between Vitamin D deficiency and cancer, cardiovascular disease, diabetes, autoimmune diseases, and depression. (https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK532266)
Supplementation for Vitamin D Deficiency
If Vitamin D is deficient clinically, the paediatrician can give a booster course of Vitamin D, which can go up to 6 lacs units in total, given as either weekly or monthly doses. Maintenance courses of Vitamin D can be done either through good nutrition, adequate sunlight or daily doses of either 400, 600, 800 or 1000 IU.
The Endocrine Society of Clinical Practice (ESCP) suggests the prescription of Vitamin D supplementation to support general bone health and advises against supplementing beyond the recommended daily requirements. (https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3356951/)
To check how good your child’s Nutrition Score is and what their Vitamin D level is, use the Nutricheck App on the Tayyari Jeet Ki website. Click here https://www.tayyarijeetki.in/ to get started.
(The views expressed here are of Dr. Nihar Parekh, MBBS, Dch, MD (USAIM), Director, Cheers Child Care.)
Disclaimer: This article is a promotional feature and does not have journalistic/editorial involvement of Hindustan Times. The information does not constitute medical/health advice. Readers are strongly advised to consult a registered medical practitioner.