Why children need vitamin D right now
A study last year showed that vitamin D supply in Germany is poor. The investigation related to adults. Vitamin D deficiency is also common in children and adolescents. The majority of girls and boys have “more or less low values”, reports the Child Health Foundation.
Vitamin D deficiency is common
In recent years, scientific studies have been carried out repeatedly, which came to the conclusion that many German citizens suffer from a vitamin D deficiency. As the Children's Health Foundation reports in a newsletter, vitamin D deficiency is also common in children and adolescents. According to the experts, studies showed that a total of 63 percent of children and adolescents had more or less reduced levels of vitamin D.
Special position among vitamins
Vitamin D has a special position among vitamins: It is produced in our body itself, more precisely in human skin. However, it does not arise there by itself: You need the light of the sun to do this.
Only the ultraviolet rays of the sun are able to activate the precursors of vitamin D stored in the skin and convert them into vitamin D.
Since there is less sunshine in the cold season, it's not uncommon for a long winter to lead to vitamin D deficiency.
Important for healthy growth of children
Vitamin D is of crucial importance for the prosperity and healthy growth of children, the Foundation for Child Health emphasizes: Your body needs it to build up the bones and also to supply the heart muscle and nervous system with calcium.
"Vitamin D is actually not a vitamin at all: it functions as a hormone in the body," explains Professor Dr. Berthold Koletzko, metabolism expert at the University Children's Clinic in Munich and chairman of the Child Health Foundation.
“The effect of the vitamin D hormone is via so-called vitamin D receptors. Such receiving points for the vitamin can be found in around 40 different tissues of the human body, ”said the doctor.
"In this way, the vitamin influences the formation of many proteins, enzymes and messenger substances, which in turn control and influence numerous physical processes."
Vitamin D is of central importance for bone metabolism. The calcium component can only be optimally absorbed through the intestine and then incorporated into the bones if there is an adequate supply of vitamin D (400 to 800 international units per day).
Vitamin D also affects muscle strength, regulates calcium and phosphate metabolism and is also involved in other metabolic processes in the body.
Winter sun is beautiful, but rare and too weak
A sufficient UVB radiation for the development of vitamin D in the skin is only available in Germany from April to September between 10 a.m. and 3 p.m., reports the Child Health Foundation.
Then it's time to soak up a lot of sun. During this time, sufficient amounts of the important vitamin are formed in ten to 15 minutes of sun exposure.
Things are different in the dark months from January to April because the sun is too low during this time. Even when she shines, her rays fall at too shallow an angle to stimulate the synthesis of vitamin D in the skin.
Experts recommend nutritional supplements
However, the supply of vitamin D through nutrition with the usual foods is not sufficient to supply the body of children and adolescents with sufficient amounts of vitamin D in the absence of sunlight.
Fortunately, vitamin D can be stored in the body, emphasizes the Children's Health Foundation. The stock thus stored in the muscles, adipose tissue and partly in the liver contributes to the supply of vitamin D in winter.
Infants and toddlers can be particularly at risk from a risky vitamin D deficiency, since the amount of vitamin D in breast milk is relatively low and the delicate skin of children at this age should not be exposed to the sun due to the lack of a protective mechanism.
The recommendation of the Child Health Foundation is therefore in accordance with the scientific organizations of pediatricians:
All babies in Germany should receive a medical prescription for tablets or drops with 400 to 500 units of vitamin D 3 daily, in addition to breast milk or baby food, from the first week of life to the second experienced early summer, i.e. depending on the time of birth for a period of one to one and a half years .
Vitamin D administration should best be combined with fluoride prophylaxis against caries. Premature babies with a birth weight of less than 1,500 grams should receive a higher dose of 800 to 1,000 units of vitamin D daily in the first months of life.
Regular intake of vitamin supplements can also make sense for some adults. However, dietary supplements with vitamin D are not advisable for everyone, as experts from the Lower Saxony Chamber of Pharmacists warned.
Basically, not too much of it should be taken. Because according to the drug commission of the German medical profession (AkdÄ), an overdose with vitamin D preparations can also occur.
Danger for couch potatoes and cell phone addicts
The largest child and adolescent health examination to date in Germany, KiGGS, looked at the questions of which children and adolescents in Germany often have vitamin D deficiency, how pronounced it is, what conditions favor it and in which months the risk of a deficiency consists.
Blood samples were taken from 15,171 participating children and adolescents and analyzed. The studies showed a total of 63 percent of children and adolescents more or less low levels of vitamin D.
Low vitamin D values were particularly common in children from families with a migration background, in participants with low social status, in children in incomplete families and nursing homes, in children and adolescents who rarely participated in sports or who played little outdoors and in Children and young people with a high level of television and media consumption.
Children and adolescents from immigrant families with darker skin tones, such as those of Turkish, Arabic, Asian or African origin, are also at risk of a deficiency.
The reason: The UVB rays of the sun are blocked by the dark pigment in the skin. As a result, insufficient vitamin D is formed in the skin.
Vitamin D is not a panacea
The KiGGS study found remarkable connections between the vitamin D level and the development, behavior and quality of life of the children.
According to the parents, 14 to 18 year olds are almost five times more likely to be treated for emotional developmental or behavioral problems if vitamin D levels are very low.
Adolescents with very low vitamin D values judge their own quality of life as worse overall than peers with normal values.
However, vitamin D is not a panacea, as advertising sometimes suggests, emphasizes the Child Health Foundation.
Its benefits for bones and teeth are beyond doubt, but the additional intake of vitamin D products has no scientifically proven influence on the occurrence of common diseases such as heart attack, stroke or diabetes.
For example, a study by New Zealand researchers has shown that such pills usually cannot prevent diseases.
Face the sun and fish on the table
The main recommendations of the Child Health Foundation are therefore:
Taking into account the necessary protection against sunburn, all children should be outdoors regularly.
According to experts, when it comes to sun protection, you should always use the UV index as a guide and not save money when applying cream.
The best time of day for vitamin D production in the skin in Germany is between 10 a.m. and 3 p.m.
Sunbathing twice a week from five to 30 minutes in length with your head uncovered, arms and legs free is sufficient to produce sufficient amounts of vitamin D.
This is the most effective way to improve your vitamin D supply.
Parents should also try to encourage their children to enjoy fish from an early age.
Regular fish meals, once or twice a week, with high-fat fish such as herring, mackerel or salmon contribute to the vitamin D supply and are also of great health benefit for other reasons. (ad)