(NaturalHealth365) Conventionally speaking, the adequate daily intake of vitamin D for infants in the United States is 400 IUs. Yet, only one in five babies is currently receiving the amount advised by both the Institute of Medicine (IOM) and the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP).
In fact, for babies who are exclusively breastfeeding, the odds slip to an alarming one in 10. From an evolutionary standpoint, most babies are not spending as much time in the sun – as they did in the past.
Insufficient vitamin D puts babies at risk for autoimmune diseases
For clinician and researcher Dr. Robert P. Heaney, associate Professor of Medicine at Creighton University, the vitamin D shortfall in infants is a medical problem with serious implications for the future. Heaney reports that the essential nutrient plays an important role during the first year of life, not only helping to metabolize calcium and reduce the risk of infections, but also imparting protection against autoimmune ailments – such as diabetes and multiple sclerosis – that may occur in later life.
Human breast milk contains very little vitamin D – a condition that Dr. Heaney says results from the mothers’ own inadequate levels of the nutrient. Commercial infant formulas are all vitamin D-fortified; in addition, the AAP has advised that all infants – no matter how they are fed – receive pediatric vitamin D drops.
Yet Heaney reports that in spite of these well-intentioned measures, babies still aren’t getting enough vitamin D.
There is a reason vitamin D is called the “sunshine vitamin”
For people with adequate amounts of vitamin D, researchers say to look to Africans living an ancestral lifestyle on the equatorial plains; these individuals customarily expose their skin to sunlight for most of the day. When contacted by sunshine, human skin makes cholecalciferol, or vitamin D-3, the form best used by the body.
However, the majority of the world’s population – along with most people living in North America – don’t have the climate or the opportunity to generate sufficient vitamin D – partly because of skin cancer fears and the use of sunblock.
Current vitamin D recommendations are far too low
For Dr. Heaney, the vitamin D recommendations of the IOM simply don’t make sense. Why advise a paltry 400 IUs a day for the mother, whose body weight is likely over 10 times that of her baby?
The solution, says Heaney, is a simple one. Nursing mothers should make use of supplementary vitamin D, and take from 5,000 to 6,000 IU a day. Unlike the use of drops, this practical solution benefits both mother and child.
Since blood levels of vitamin D can drop very quickly, Heaney advises taking the dosage conscientiously on a daily basis.
Earlier studies point to widespread vitamin D deficiencies
In 2010, Dr. Anthony Norman, a professor of biochemistry at University of California Riverside, published an article in Endocrine Today asserting that half of the population in North America and Western Europe is deficient in vitamin D; he recommended between 2,000 and 4,000 IU for men and women.
Dr. Norman asserted that taking adequate levels of vitamin D for five years can cause substantial reductions in the incidence of breast cancer, colon cancer and Type 1 diabetes. Vitamin D is unique is converted by the body into a steroid hormone; Dr. Norman reported that 37 different body organs contain receptors for the steroid form of vitamin D – meaning that they respond biologically to it.
He noted that supplements are necessary, in addition to vitamin D- rich foods – and possibly even carefully-limited tanning exposure. Foods high in natural vitamin D include fatty fish and eggs.
Studies support the 400 IU dosage for infants
Although some European countries, such as France and Finland, recommend 1,000 IU a day for infants, a 2013 study performed at McGill University and published in Journal of the American Medical Association confirmed that 400 IU was sufficient for infant health and to promote normal bone growth. 132 infants in Montreal received either 400, 800, 1200 or `1600 IU for a year, with researchers measuring their weight, length and head circumference – along with bone mineralization and blood levels of vitamin D – every three months. They found no bone growth advantage for the infants at higher doses.
Getting sufficient amounts of the “sunshine vitamin” really is essential for health, and it seems that the ideal amount of vitamin D for nursing mothers lies far north of the meager amounts currently advocated by medical authorities. Naturally, you should check with a trusted doctor to help you adjust your vitamin D dosage towards more desirable levels.