Toddler, Child
5th Aug 2020

Many of us grew up drinking a glass of milk with breakfast, lunch and dinner, promised by our parents that its calcium content would help us grow up big and strong.

While it’s true that calcium is important, vitamin D (also known as colecalciferol) also plays a role in supporting your child’s healthy growth and development.

What is Vitamin D?

Affectionately known as the ‘sunshine vitamin’ thanks to our bodies’ ability to synthesise it after sun exposure, it’s a fat-soluble vitamin and an essential nutrient.

Our total consumption includes a combination of dietary intake and exposure to ultraviolet light from the sun. In Australia, we get most of our it from sunlight exposure.

Why is it Important?

It’s essential to help aid your child’s bone development and health, support their healthy neuromuscular function, and maintain healthy immunity [1].

Aids bone development and health:

Helping to control calcium levels in the blood (1), vitamin D aids healthy bone growth and development in infants and children, and supports ongoing bone health.

Supports healthy neuromuscular function:

Maintaining the calcium levels in the blood is also crucial for the healthy function of the nervous system, required for muscle function and nerve conduction.

Maintains healthy immune system function:

Your child’s immune system is a dedicated defence mechanism and the first line of defence against bacteria and other germs. Vitamin D plays an important role in supporting your little one’s immune system health.

Looking for more ways to help to support your child’s immune system? Learn more here.

What are the Signs and Symptoms of Low Vitamin D Status?

Sometimes, your child might not be getting enough vitamin D.

There’s not always obvious symptoms, but there are some common risk factors:

  • People with naturally very dark skin
  • People who have a disability or disease that affects vitamin D metabolism
  • Breast-fed babies of vitamin D deficient mothers

While there are some ways you may help to prevent insufficient vitamin D when sunlight is inadequate, if you have concerns about your child’s health, talk to your health care professional.

How Can You Help to Prevent Low Vitamin D Status in Your Child?

During pregnancy:

Mothers who are deficient have been shown to give birth to children with low vitamin D status [2]. Ensuring your levels are adequate during pregnancy may help prevent deficiency in your infant.

Diet:

Vitamin D is sometimes assumed to be plentiful in a healthy diet but unfortunately, there are very few foods that contain it. Egg yolks and fatty fish such as salmon contain some and other foods including breakfast cereals, types of margarine and spreads may be fortified with it.

Sun exposure:

It’s been suggested that during summer, Australians with fair skin may be able to achieve adequate levels by spending just a few minutes in the sun on either side of the peak UV times [3].

As with most health issues, there are a variety of factors to be considered when calculating your child’s sun exposure, including skin type, location and cloud coverage. If you have concerns about your child’s health, visit a healthcare professional.

What's Next?

References

[1] Betterhealth.vic.gov.au. (n.d.). Vitamin D. [online] Available at: https://www.betterhealth.vic.gov.au/health/healthyliving/vitamin-d [Accessed 25 Nov. 2019].

[2] Munns, C., Zacharin, M., Rodda, C., Batch, J., Morley, R., Cranswick, N., Craig, M., Cutfield, W., Hofman, P., Taylor, B., Grover, S., Pasco, J., Burgner, D. and Cowell, C. (2006). Prevention and treatment of infant and childhood vitamin D deficiency in Australia and New Zealand: a consensus statement. Medical Journal of Australia, [online] 185(5), pp.268-272. Available at: https://www.mja.com.au/system/files/issues/185_05_040906/mun10153_fm.pdf [Accessed 9 Dec. 2019].

[3] Samanek, A., Croager, E., Gies, P., Milne, E., Prince, R., McMichael, A., Lucas, R. and Slevin, T. (2006). Estimates of beneficial and harmful sun exposure times during the year for major Australian population centres. Medical Journal of Australia, [online] 184(7), pp.338-341. Supported by: The Cancer Council Western Australia. Available at: https://www.mja.com.au/journal/2006/184/7/estimates-beneficial-and-harmful-sun-exposure-times-during-year-major-australian [Accessed 9 Dec. 2019].