Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Expose baby / toddler to the winter sun

Here in NZ (and Australia) we assume that because our sunlight is so harsh that we get enough vitamin D. Well more and more data is showing that this might not be a valid assumption.

Today's blog reviews a study that looked at vitamin D levels in 1 - 2 year old babies/toddlers in Dunedin a city in the south of NZ. Vitamin D levels can be accurately measured in blood and unusually for vitamins the blood level is a good indicator of vitamin D status (they actually measure 25-hydroxyvitamin D which is shortened to 25(OH)D see vitamin D Wikipedia article). In this study they used a blood level of 50 nmol/l as a cut off, below this level baby was deficient, above was acceptable.

No surprise that during the summer months 94% of babies/toddlers had blood levels of > 50 nmol/l. However in the winter months nearly 80 % were deficient, eg blood levels >50 nmol/l. That is staggering that go from 94% to just over 20% having adequate vitamin D levels.

The good news is that baby/toddlers just need to play / lie in the sun, and if mum is breast feeding then have her relax in the sun. As much of the skin should be exposed as possible (legs and arms are the official recommendations). This sounds like a great excuse to have a warm and cosy room in which mum (or dad) can lie in the sun with baby/child lying/crawling on/around..... my only recommendation would to be that baby have a nappy on.... cause you know what will happen if they don't!

Reference: Lisa A Houghton, Ewa A Szymlek-Gay, Andrew R Gray, Elaine L Ferguson, Xiaolan Deng and Anne-Louise M Heath Predictors of vitamin D status and its association with parathyroid hormone in young New Zealand children. Am J Clin Nutr (May 19, 2010). doi:10.3945/ajcn.2009.29055 Picture credit.

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