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The 411 on Vitamin D

DOUGLAS COUNTY – Did you know that Vitamin D contributes to strong bones in young athletes? An estimated 50 million children in the U.S. suffer from low Vitamin D levels. That can put young athletes at risk for recurrent fractures.

Bone Health in Young Athletes

Calcium and Vitamin D are both important for strong bones. Many children, especially those who are dairy avoidant, have a diet that is lacking in needed calcium. The body needs calcium for critical body functions. When dietary intake is poor, the body will take or “steal” the calcium from the stores in the bone, thus further contributing to poor bone density over time. Vitamin D helps absorb calcium, so even if calcium intake is good, a child can still be at risk for developing poor bone strength.

It is important to recognize that children and adolescents are in their prime bone-building years, as peak bone mass is typically achieved by 25 years of age. After that, bone loss gradually occurs naturally with age. Therefore, the “bank” or reserves that are achieved by that age will need to sustain the individual throughout life.

Vitamin D, our “sunshine vitamin,” is often easy to make during the summer months. However, because of the fear over adverse effects of sun exposure, sunscreen is applied to the skin blocking up to 95 percent of Vitamin D. Athletes who train inside all year round may be especially at risk for Vitamin D deficiency. During the winter, even in sunny climates, Vitamin D is more difficult to obtain from the sun because of its latitude. Unfortunately, Vitamin D is not readily present in a typical diet, so it is common for Vitamin D levels to significantly decrease in the winter season.

What to do to boost Calcium and Vitamin D Levels

  • Encourage a balanced healthy diet with quality sources of calcium. Children typically need 4-6 servings of calcium rich foods every day (small piece of cheese, cup of yogurt, 6 oz. milk)

  •  If a child is dairy avoidant, consider calcium fortified food and drinks (orange juice, cereals, almond milk)

  • In the summer, allow short periods of time outside without sunscreen
    -15-30 minutes between 10:00 a.m.-3:00 p.m. at least 2 times per week. Dark skinned people require three-to-five times longer exposure
    -Expose most of the skin (shorts and t-shirt)
    -Aim for just enough exposure for the skin to be pink

  • If there is concern over the diet/sun exposure, consider giving a supplement. The amount to supplement depends on the age/size of the child
    -Calcium: 500-1000 mg per day
    -Vitamin D: 400-1000 units per day – Vitamin D3 is most commonly recommended

  • Screening for Vitamin D deficiency may be considered in the case of recurrent fractures, stress fractures, or poor healing of bone injury

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March 11, 2015 | By SCPaulsen | Category: District

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