What is vitamin D?
- Vitamin D, sometimes known as the ‘sunshine’ vitamin, is actually a hormone, called 25- hydroxyvitamin D, which is made by our bodies in response to sun exposure. We can also obtain vitamin D directly from our food, which can include foods which naturally contain vitamin D or are fortified with vitamin D, as well as dietary supplements
Why is vitamin D important for toddlers?
- Toddlers have a particular need for vitamin D to support the development of their bones and teeth, because they are going through a period of amazing growth and development
- The Department of Health recommends that all toddlers receive a daily dietary supplement of vitamin D
Why are toddlers at risk of low levels of vitamin D?
- Experts agree that sunshine in the UK and everyday foods don’t always give toddlers all the vitamin D they need
- Unpredictable British weather can make it difficult for toddlers to get enough vitamin D from sunlight, especially from October to April when the sun is at the wrong angle for our skin to make vitamin D
- Sunlight is less effective on cloudy days, or when air pollution is high, therefore our toddlers cannot rely on sensible sun exposure alone to reach their recommended vitamin D levels
- Many toddlers are outside less and when they are playing outdoors many mums put lots of sunscreen on them, so it’s even harder for little ones to make vitamin D
- Due to the angle of the sun, young children living north of Birmingham in the UK also run the risk of not receiving the optimum amount of sun exposure to make vitamin D
- Those of African-Caribbean and South Asian origin are at increased risk, as their skin’s increased melanin levels mean they are less able to produce vitamin D through exposure to sunlight
- People who cover up for cultural reasons are at risk because their skin is less likely to be exposed to sunlight
- Nearly three-quarters of mums said they don’t give their toddler the recommended vitamin supplements*
Where can toddlers get vitamin D from?
- Ask your health visitor or GP for advice about safe sun exposure for your toddler
- The UK Department of Health recommends all children from six months to five years receive a daily supplement of vitamin D to meet their daily dietary requirement, unless they’re drinking more than 500ml of formula. Experts recommend 7mcg of vitamin D daily for little ones aged six months to five years.
- Vitamin D is added to some foods, including margarines and some breakfast cereals. It’s also found in foods like oily fish, egg yolks, and liver. However, most toddlers don’t eat enough of these foods to meet their daily requirement from food alone. For example, less than 20% of toddlers eat oily fish regularly**
- Giving two 150ml beakers of Growing Up Milk daily, as part of a healthy balanced diet, provides an average*** of 92% of a toddler’s recommended vitamin D dietary intake****
Vitamin D levels in foods
You may also be surprised to discover how vitamin D levels in certain foods compare to Growing Up Milk. Experts recommend 7mcg daily of vitamin D for those seven months to four years old. Click here to find out more about the contribution different foods and drinks can make toward a toddler’s daily dietary recommendation of vitamin D.
** Ruxton CHS. The benefits of fish consumption. Nutrition bulletin 2011; 326.6-19
***Based on an average of the vitamin D content of growing up milks and toddler milks from Cow and Gate, Aptamil, HiPP and SMA
**** The Reference Nutrient Intake for toddlers is 7 micrograms of vitamin D per day