If we were to point out the biggest difference between the childhood we had and our children have today, it would be the time spent outdoors. The result – our bodies got a chance to absorb enough Vitamin D to keep us healthy. The scenario today is very different. The kids don’t spend much time outdoors – COVID or NO-COVID. And even when they do, we slather them with sunscreen or make them wear protective clothing. Here is what most of us don’t know. While sunscreens help protect our skin from harmful UV rays, they also reduce the ability of our body to make Vitamin D. Our bodies need direct sun on the skin, without any barriers, to produce the ever-important Vitamin D.
Effects of vitamin D deficiency in children can be extreme and in some cases life-threatening.
- Rickets – Rickets is a disease where the bone strength of the child is greatly reduced. This results in chronic pain and deformation of the bone.
- Depression – There is a reason why Vitamin D is called “The Sunshine Vitamin”. Not just because we get it from the sun, but also because it helps lift up the mood and make us happy.
- Dry Eyes / Poor eyesight – We don’t need to think twice when we say children today have a sedentary lifestyle. Add in the exposure to all the digital devices and it affects their eyesight. But it’s also the intake of Vitamin D that affects the eye. In addition to this, a lot of children do not consume cow’s milk which is a rich source of Vitamin D and calcium.
- Muscle and joint pains – The only joint pains children should have are because their bodies are growing. Lack of Vitamin D can be another reason why kids might complain of aches and pain.
- Behavioural issues – Tantrums are a part of being a child. However, lower levels of Vitamin D have been linked to extreme aggression and tantrums.
The Canadian Pediatric Society recommends that kids maintain a higher vitamin D blood level of 75 nmol/L. However, 69% of children in the US fall below the standard level. 20% of them have blood levels of vitamin D below the 50 nanomoles per litre (nmol/L). These statistics are unfortunate, and yet not surprising. Such is the importance of Vitamin D in our lives.
Let’s debunk myths and get some clarity on “The Sunshine Vitamin”
- The more Vitamin D, the better – False. It is rare that one can get an excess of it. However, too much of it has been known to cause calcium buildup and kidney troubles.
- Getting out in the sun is sufficient to get Vitamin D – False. While it is true that spending sometime in the sun can help us absorb Vitamin D3, factors like the season, time of day, cloud cover, skin pigment, and sunscreen affect how much vitamin D a person can synthesize via the sun.
- It’s Easy to Get Enough Vitamin D Through Food Alone – False. While fatty fish, dairy and eggs are certainly a good source of Vitamin D, getting adequate amounts only through food can be tricky.
- Vitamin D supplements lead to weight loss – False. While there is a correlation between obesity and vitamin D deficiency, as the NIH notes, there’s no scientific proof that taking a vitamin D supplement is enough to lose weight. Click here to read more.
So what can we do to increase the level of Vitamin D3 in our children (and us too!)
- Let’s get some more sun – Experts suggest that about 5 to 30 minutes of daily sun exposure, particularly between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m., or at least twice a week, on the arms, face, legs, and hands without sunscreen usually leads to a sufficient amount of vitamin D.
- Eat foods high in Vitamin D – Oily fish, white mushrooms exposed to UV rays, red meat, liver, eggs, dairy, fortified foods. It is important to cook the food properly where the nutrition is preserved and not lost in the cooking process. Teaching children to cook the proper way at a young age is an added skill. (Link to Cass’ blog)
- Vitamin D Supplements – 10 micrograms of Vitamin D through supplements or drops can be consumed to maintain an adequate level.
4) A few minutes outdoors even in cold weather can certainly add to the benefits of the
At Green Schools Green Future we encourage people to examine their habits and improve them to lead a happy and healthy life. We believe that today’s children have a better future if we make informed decisions for them and lead them towards healthier lifestyles. To know more about our project click here. To support our cause, click here.
By Kritika Rao