Thursday, 15 December 2011

Vitamin D - The Sunshine Vitamin

Vitamin D is really, honestly, quite easy to come by.  It's free, and made naturally in our bodies as a result of exposure to sunlight.  Trouble is, there's not a lot of that around at the moment (you might have noticed!), and shockingly, 9 out of 10 toddlers aren't getting enough Vitamin D to meet their nutritional needs, either naturally or through supplements.

Vitamin D helps with bone growth, and can prevent rickets in children, and osteoporosis in adults, as it helps regulate the calcium levels in the body.  That's something I know about, thanks to a couple of broken ankles, and surgeons giving me dire threats about bone density scans & the like.

Our lifestyles have changed so much over the last 30 years or so, modern toddlers don't get the same levels of Vitamin D that their parents and grandparents did.  Reliance on cars for even short journeys, greatly increased use of sunscreen, more time spent in front of the tv & computer rather than "playing out", all reduce the amount of exposure to sunlight and therefore the amount of Vitamin D floating around in children's bodies.
Image Credit
So, what can we do?  Get out in the sunshine!  Ten minutes a day through the summer months (April - October), without sunscreen, can give a child enough exposure to the sun's rays to produce enough Vitamin D to store in their bodies for the winter.  But really, do we risk our toddlers' skin with exposure to the sun without sunscreen?  And even if we did, that's not going to be enough for some people.  Those living in the north (sorry Northerners!), and those with Black or Asian skin won't get enough sunlight this way, so something else is needed.

The Department of Health recommends all toddlers receive a daily supplement of Vitamins A, C & D.  Those who receive milk tokens (or Healthy Start tokens to give them their proper name) are also entitled to free supplements, and in certain areas of the UK, you may be able to get free supplements from your health visitor even if you're not on benefits(though you might well have to ask).

In addition to a supplement, you can try to include Vitamin D rich foods in your toddler's diet. A lot of breakfast cereals & margarines are fortified with vitamins, another good reason not to skip breakfast!  Oily fish, egg yolks and liver are also good sources of Vitamin D (and yeah, good luck with those).

You can also include a specially formulated Growing-Up milk into your toddler's day.  Squeaky is a DEMON for being a fussy eater at the moment, but two beakers of Cow & Gate Growing Up Milk gives her more than half her daily Vitamin D requirements, so I know she's off to a good start each day, even if she spends the rest of the day refusing to consider anything other than toast.

Cow & Gate Growing Up Milk are sponsoring me to attend the CybHer conference in May 2012.  The statistical data in this post came from The Toddler Census, a questionnaire answered by over 1000 parents in July 2011.

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