Updated: Nov 28, 2022
Thought Vitamin D was just another vitamin? Think again - especially if you’ve got kids!
It’s only in recent years that scientists have discovered just how important Vitamin D is for health - especially for growing kids. It’s required for everything from supporting healthy bones and teeth to brain function, immune health, and even regulating insulin levels. And that’s just the beginning.
Children are at a higher risk of vitamin D deficiency because their needs are greater. Unfortunately, recent national surveys have shown that around one in three New Zealand kids is low in vitamin D. And that’s a serious problem, because chronically low levels of vitamin D can potentially increase the risk of weaker bones, poor immune function, low mood, and other health concerns.
Here’s a quick rundown of why Vitamin D is important for children.
It supports healthy bone development
Vitamin D is vital for the absorption of calcium in the stomach and the maintenance of phosphorus in the blood. It also promotes the mineralisation of the collagen matrix in bone. All of these factors are crucial for healthy bones and teeth, and also for proper muscle function. Low levels of vitamin D may not cause serious bone diseases, but it may increase a child’s risk of bone fractures.
It assists with immune function
Vitamin D plays an important role in mobilising the immune system. Low levels of vitamin D are associated with a higher risk of developing flu and other infections. Vitamin D may also help to suppress inflammatory immune responses that can lead to autoimmune diseases and allergies.
How do kids get vitamin D?
There’s a good reason Vitamin D is known as the ‘sunshine vitamin’. It’s the only nutrient that’s produced by the body when your skin is exposed to the sun. Kids get about 80% of their daily requirements for vitamin D this way.
Unfortunately, as all Kiwis know, New Zealand has high levels of UV light and also high rates of skin cancer. Being out in the sun for too long leads to sunburn, so we’re accustomed to “slip, slop, slap”, especially between September and April. And that’s a good thing! However, it can prevent kids from getting enough of that valuable Vitamin D exposure.
Winter is also a time when we don’t get enough vitamin D, simply because the sun isn’t out.
In fact, those living in the southern regions of New Zealand are at a higher risk of short-term vitamin D deficiency between May and August.
On top of this, kids these days are also spending more time indoors (mostly on screens!).
The good news is that Vitamin D is also present in many foods. The best sources include:
Oily fish - such as salmon, sardines, mackerel, and trout.
Cod liver oil
Lean red meat
Fortified breakfast cereals and snacks
Here’s some even better news: we’ve added Vitamin D to Noughty! Each serving of Noughty contains 5mcg of Vitamin D, which is 100% of the daily requirement for kids aged 4-9 years. It’s the fun way to support growing bones and minds!