In a report to be published in the journal Pediatrics, researchers say vitamin D plays a much larger role than growing strong bones; it also affects the immune system.
“In almost 250 children with low blood levels of vitamin D during winter, we found that taking a daily vitamin D supplement cut in half the risk of respiratory infection,” said study author Dr. Carlos Camargo of Massachusetts General Hospital in a news release.
Vitamin D has become a hot topic for many parents today because some children – who play video games indoors or consistently wear sunscreen – are not often exposed to sunlight, which helps the body’s natural production. Additionally, keeping an adequate level of vitamin D in winter can be challenging in northern U.S. states because the amount of sunlight varies significantly from season to season.
Vitamin D is found in very few foods in nature, according to the National Institutes of Health. Most people and babies get vitamin D from fortified foods such as milk and infant formula.
For the study, researchers analyzed the levels of vitamin D among children who live in Mongolia. Mongolians often face a high risk for vitamin D deficiency, especially during winter months, according to the Massachusetts General Hospital release. Many children in the U.S. have a similar deficiency, researchers noted, particularly African-American children who live in northern states.
Federal guidelines call for children over the age of 1 and adolescents to receive 600 IU daily of vitamin D.
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