Vitamin D - micronutrients and your children

Vitamin D may be the most interesting of all the vitamins… perhaps because it isn’t a vitamin at all! Vitamin D is actually a prohormone - a nutrient that converts into a hormone within the body. Most of our Vitamin D is produced in the body when our skin is exposed to sunlight. This exposure catalyses a chain of reactions that produce the active form of vitamin D that is used by the body.

Studies show Vitamin D plays a role in preventing cardiovascular, neurological and autoimmune diseases as well as playing a major part in numerous other essential functions such as;

  • Enhancing calcium, phosphate and magnesium absorption
  • Supporting immune health
  • Improving cognitive ability
  • Antioxidant and Anti-inflammatory properties

As sunlight is a major source of this nutrient, the rate of synthesis can be reduced when there is not enough exposure. Darker skin tones synthesize vitamin D at a slower rate compared to lighter skin tones which mean people with darker skin tones are more susceptible to vitamin D deficiency. The rate of sun exposure people need varies but in general, most people can receive adequate levels of Vitamin D from 5-10 minutes of sun exposure per day. Signs of Vitamin D deficiency include;

  • Reoccurring infections or illness
  • Muscle weakness
  • Sleeplessness and fatigue
  • Unexplained bone and muscle pain
  • Signs of Rickets (only in very severe cases)

If you are concerned about Vitamin D deficiency you can have your levels checked by your treating doctor.

The Australian Government National Health and Medical Research Council recommend an adequate intake of 5µg/day for children and teens. Adequate intake assumes no or minimal exposure to sunlight.

Good sources of vitamin D include fatty fish, eggs, mushrooms and fortified dairy products or cereals. Vitamin D is a fat-soluble nutrient so if you are considering supplementation due to a deficiency, supplements are best absorbed with a meal that contains some fat.

Sources of Vitamin D

Supplements can only be of assistance if dietary intake is inadequate. It is important to seek advice from a qualified health practitioner before taking any supplements.