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Children's Health

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U.S. Kids May Need More Vitamin D

Researchers Say Millions of Children May Get Too Little Vitamin D

Vitamin D: The Sunshine Vitamin

Mansbach says studies are needed to determine optimal blood levels of vitamin D in children and how much vitamin D they should be taking to get to those levels.

Most children's multivitamins contain 400 IU of vitamin D, the minimum daily amount recommended by the American Academy of Pediatrics.

But Mansbach says most children probably need more than this, especially darker-skinned children and those who live in colder climates with limited exposure to the sun.

The body converts UV rays from the sun into vitamin D, and all agree that sun exposure is the most efficient way to increase blood levels of the vitamin.

But sun exposure also increases risk of skin cancer, and most dermatologists and the American Academy of Pediatrics recommend that children wear sunscreen at all times while outside in the sun.

Children with darker skin also need much more exposure to the sun than fair-skinned children to get adequate levels of vitamin D.

Longtime vitamin D research Michael F. Holick, MD, PhD, of Boston University School of Medicine, is a promoter of what he calls "sensible sun exposure."

He says the recommendation to wear sunscreen at all times when exposed to the sun has led to widespread vitamin D deficiency in children and adults.

He says limited sun exposure during the summer -- as little as five minutes a day on the arms and legs -- is more than adequate for producing enough vitamin D.

"This is still a controversial position, but the [medical community] is coming around," Holick tells WebMD.

Foods that contain vitamin D include salmon, canned tuna, egg yolks, beef or calf liver, cheese, and fortified sources such as milk, yogurt, and cereals.

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