Finally, “modern” medicine catches up a little…

I have been touting the benefits of vitamin D for years.  A multitude of studies have shown that it is beneficial for many things, not just for healthy bones.  Now a new study, published in Pediatrics, shows that even infants need to supplement with vitamin D.

New research has shown that a significant portion of mothers and therefore infants are deficient in this life saving nutrient.  A second study in Pediatrics reports that 58% of newborns and 36% of mothers were deficient in vitamin D, according to blood tests. Although taking prenatal vitamins helped, more than 30% of moms who took them were still deficient. Getting lots of sunlight helped raise vitamin D levels in moms, but not in their newborns.

I always recommend extra vitamin D to my pregnant patients in addition to their regular prenatal vitamin.  Although prenatal vitamins are beneficial, they are entirely too low in vitamin D.  The fact that 30% of moms taking prenatals are still low in vitamin D proves it.

I have also have mothers question why I would recommend vitamin D to them during the summer months.  The first reason is that most people don’t get outside enough to get adequate vitamin D production.  Secondly, when they do go out, modern medicine has scared them into thinking they need to rub chemical laden creams into their skin to “protect” it.  Sunscreen blocks the production of vitamin D and who knows what it does to an unborn child.

The old recommendation of 200 international units (IUs) per day is extremely low.  They have doubled the recommendation up to 400 IUs per day and in my estimation that is still far too low.  While breast feeding is always best it does not provide enough vitamin D for the baby especially if mom is also low.  The best way to increase vitamin D in your baby is to supplement with it.  It is very inexpensive and comes in liquid form.  This new recommendation, while a step in the right direction, needs to be increased even more.

How Much Should My Baby Get?

Below is a good recommendation of how much vitamin D infants and babies should obtain.

Infants and children under the age of one should obtain a total of 1,000 IU (25 mcg) per day from their formula, sun exposure, or supplements. As most breast milk contains little or no vitamin D, breast-fed babies should take 1,000 IU per day as a supplement unless they are exposed to sunlight. The only exception to this are lactating mothers who either get enough sun exposure or take enough vitamin D (usually 4,000–6,000 IU per day) to produce breast milk that is rich in vitamin D. Formula fed babies should take an extra 600 IU per day until they are weaned and then take 1,000 IU a day, as advised below.

Children over the age of 1 year should take 1,000 IU per every 25 pounds of body weight per day, depending on latitude of residence, skin pigmentation, and sun exposure. On the days they are outside in the summer sun, they do not need to take any; in the winter they will need to supplement accordingly. (From www.vitaminDcouncil.org)

These recommendations are safe and effective.  The alternative is not taking any at all and putting your child at risk for a host of diseases.  Below is the reduction rates for many diseases with adequate vitamin D levels.  These rates are all from published, peer reviewed studies.

  • 35% reduction in all cancers with serum levels of 38 ng/ml or higher.
  • 83% reduction in breast caner with serum levels of 50 ng/ml or higher.
  • 17% reduction in ovarian cancer with serum levels of 47 ng/ml or higher.
  • 60% reduction of colon cancer with serum levels of 43 ng/ml or higher.
  • 18% reduction in Non-Hodgkins Lymphoma with serum levels of 38 ng/ml or higher.
  • 66% reduction in Type I diabetes with serum levels of 53 ng/ml or higher.
  • 54% reduction in multiple sclerosis (MS) with serum levels of 55 ng/ml or higher.
  • 30% reduction in heart attacks in men with serum levels of 35 ng/ml or higher.
  • 49% reduction in kidney cancer with serum levels of 48 ng/ml or higher.
  • 37% reduction in endometrial cancer with serum levels of 51 ng/ml or higher.

The bottom line is that to gain all of the benefits of vitamin D you need to keep your serum levels between 55 and 65 ng/ml at the very least.  To achieve this level, supplementation is a must even if you live in a sunny climate.

Toxicity?

This is a question I hear a lot.  People always ask me, “But isn’t vitamin D toxic?”  While vitamin D can become toxic in extremely high doses, the fear of toxicity is completely unwarranted.  The fear of toxicity is rampant, especially in traditionally trained physicians.  These fears are unnecessary and here’s why.  I will routinely recommend 6,000-10,000 IUs per day to my patients.  The toxicity levels established and accepted are 40,000-50,000 IUs per day for several months at a time.  No one takes that much and no one is recommending people take that much.  What about if people get regular sun?  Good question.  If regular sun exposure occurs I reduce my recommendations accordingly.  Secondly, all of my patients get their serum levels checked.  If the number starts to creep too high, I reduce their recommendations.  Simple as that.

Vitamin D is a critical vitamin in the body and it does far more than anyone thought just 5 years ago.  The risk of toxicity is relatively unfounded simply because most people cannot attain enough, either from sun, supplement or food, to actually reach toxic levels.  The flip side of that is not having enough, and the dangers of that far outweigh the dangers of having too much.  Vitamin D is easy to supplement with and to reach the most beneficial levels, supplementation is necessary.

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Filed under Diet, Public Health

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