The Importance of Vitamin D
Vitamin D

There has been quite a buzz in the nutrition world about Vitamin D lately. I want to pass along some research to you.

Why is Vitamin D important?

Researchers are finding not having enough Vitamin D plays an important role in 17 different cancers (including breast, colon, and prostate), as well as heart disease, stroke, hypertension, autoimmune diseases, diabetes, depression, chronic pain, osteoarthritis, osteoporosis, muscle weakness, muscle wasting, birth defects, gum disease, and more.

Vitamin D is a vitamin that is a bit hard to get by just eating food. The exception is food that is fortified with Vitamin D. When a food is fortified with a vitamin it means the vitamin is added during processing. Foods that is fortified with Vitamin D include MILK (whole, 2%, and non-fat or skim), most yogurt, and other milk products and fatty fish like salmon.

The BEST way to get Vitamin D is by exposing your skin to the sun! There is a substance in your skin that turns into Vitamin D with sun exposure (without sunscreen). If you have light skin, you will need about 20 minutes of mid-day sun per day. If you have darker skin, you need MORE: about 30—40 minutes of mid-day sun a day.

What about cloudy days and Vitamin D?

This is a good question because many of our winter days are cloudy. If the day is cloudy, especially in January and February, your skin cannot make Vitamin D. It is super important to get your milk and milk products that have Vitamin D added. You may even consider taking a vitamin D supplement during these winter months. Look for a supplement that has Vitamin D 3 in it. Be sure and talk to your doctor about any supplementation before you begin.

VITAMIN D Deficiency in Young Children

The American Academy of Pediatrics is concerned about the rise in the number of infants and children they are seeing with the Vitamin D deficiency called RICKETS. Rickets is a softening of the bones in children potentially leading to fractures and deformity. Vitamin D is essential in promoting absorption of calcium and phosphorus from the gastrointestinal tract, which your child needs to build strong bones. Researchers have found that children are not getting enough exposure to the sun (about 15 to 20 minutes a day if you have light skin and 30 to 40 minutes a day if you have dark skin). And if you live in a place like PITTSBURGH, it is just plain hard to get any sunshine in January and February.

Make sure you and your children are getting enough Vitamin D by:

  • Sun exposure every day
  • Vitamin D fortified milk products, fish including salmon, shrimp, cod, and eggs
  • Supplementation if necessary (talk to your Doctor)
If you are pregnant; Take your prenatal vitamin and spend some time outside each day.

If you are breastfeeding: Vitamin D can be a bit low in breast milk so be sure and continue your pre-natal vitamins during breastfeeding. Be sure and get outside to play and get your sun exposure each day!

Early Head Start 
Nutrition News

November 2008

From your nutritionist, Ann