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Is my child getting enough vitamin D?

Is your child getting enough vitamin D? Find out which foods pack a vitamin D punch and why your child needs a supplement with our dietitian's expert guide...

Known as the sunshine vitamin, vitamin D plays an essential role in your child’s body and in the UK, the sun is strong enough between April to September for your skin to produce it.

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It is difficult to know how much time is needed in the sun to make enough vitamin D as there are a number of different factors involved, including your child’s skin tone, the use of sun cream and the levels of vitamin D your child was born with. Children with dark skin (such as South Asian, African or African-Caribbean) will need to spend more time in the sun to produce similar amounts of vitamin D than someone with lighter skin.

Why does my child need vitamin D?

The reason it’s so important for your child to have enough vitamin D is because without it, their body can’t absorb any calcium into their bones and cells. This can lead to children developing a condition called rickets, which can cause permanent bone deformities, weakened muscles and reduced growth.

Which foods contain vitamin D? 

Vitamin D is found in some foods including oily fish such as salmon, herring, mackerel, trout, sardines and fresh tuna. Vitamin D can also be found in red meat, egg yolks, wild mushrooms and fortified foods such as breakfast cereals, some milks and spreads. It is, however, a challenge to achieve daily recommendations from diet alone. 

How much vitamin D does my child need?

The recommendations for vitamin D have changed recently and it is now suggested that parents and carers for all children over the age of one should consider starting a daily supplement containing 10 micrograms of vitamin D, especially during the autumn and winter months. Babies under one should be given a daily supplement of 8.5 – 10 micrograms unless they have more than 500ml of fortified formula milk a day. 

If you are concerned your child is not getting enough vitamin D, you should speak to your GP, health visitor or ask to see a specialist dietitian.

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This article was published on 15 October 2016. Emer Delaney BSc (Hons), RD has an honours degree in Human Nutrition and Dietetics from the University of Ulster. She has worked as a dietitian in some of London’s top teaching hospitals and is currently based in Chelsea.

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