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Let the sunshine vitamin in, doctors say

Author Alex Bellamy
Submitted 06-06-2008

Dads may now have another reason to bring their kids out to play on a sunny day, following a warning from doctors about vitamin D deficiency among infants and toddlers.

Approximately four in ten young children have below-optimal levels of vitamin D and 12 percent are deficient, according to doctors at Children’s Hospital Boston.

The study, published in Archives of Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicine, noted changes in bone density among one-third of those who were lacking in the vitamin.

"We need to be concerned," commented Dr Catherine Gordon, a co-author of the study.

Vitamin D is produced naturally in a person’s body when they are exposed to sunshine, but it is not naturally present in many foods.

For this reason, the vitamin is often added to certain products such as milk and margarine – and some doctors also recommend that parents give their children supplements.

Dr Gordon advises that babies who breastfeed should be given a separate source of vitamin D, explaining that even though breast milk is "the healthiest way to feed an infant", it does not contain sufficient quantities of the vitamin.

However, infants who consume formula are probably receiving the proper amount – according to the American Academy of Pediatrics, all formulas sold in the US are required to be fortified with a healthy level of vitamin D.