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The American Academy of Pediatrics is recommending an increase in children's vitamin D intake—from 200 International Units (IU) daily to 400 IU—in hopes of preventing the bone-softening disease rickets and reaping other health benefits, according to several news sites. The AAP says children of all ages, from breastfed babies to teenagers, aren't getting enough vitamin D, which helps calcium absorption, keeps bones strong, and helps prevent osteoporosis, cancer, and multiple sclerosis later in life. In 2000 and 2001, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported a rise in rickets cases among breastfed infants, prompting the further study.
Although vitamin D is found in many everyday foods (fortified milk, orange juice, and salmon are just some examples), kids and their parents don't eat them in sufficient amounts. Doctors say the easiest solution is to take a supplement; daily children's multivitamins in stores now contain at least 400 IU of vitamin D. And while the best way to stimulate vitamin D production in a person's body is sunlight exposure—usually about 10-15 minutes a few times per week—it's not always the most convenient method, and sun exposure raises your risk of skin cancer.
Infants may be the most at risk of deficiency. The AAP recommends breastfeeding for up to one year, but breast milk is sometimes lacking enough of the vitamin due to the mother's diet. Baby formula contains vitamin D, so bottle-fed babies usually don't need supplements. Still, the AAP says that breast is best.
For more on vitamin D and the top 20 super foods that are packed with nutrients, check out our Power Hungry feature.
Maria Vega is Fit Pregnancy magazineÂs copy editor.