Vitamin D is Essential for Your Child & Pre-Teen's Bone Health
Updated: Mar 20
Vitamin D is essential for your child and pre-teen’s health, and very importantly, their bone development. Childhood and adolescence are a critical time for gaining optimal bone density - there’s a window of opportunity to optimize bone health and prevent osteoporosis.
Where do we get vitamin D?
Your child and pre-teen gets vitamin D a few ways:
1. Depending where you live, 10 minutes on sunshine exposure on their skin (around midday in winter months, before 10am in summer months) (1).
2. Consuming foods rich in vitamin D, such as fatty fish (sardines, salmon), eggs, and fortified foods (1).
3. And if needed, supplementation…
What does the research say about supplementation?
Two trials found that vitamin D3 supplementation in healthy 11–12-year-old females with adequate calcium intake had a positive impact on bone mineral density (2, 3). Studies show that long bones grow faster in the prepubescent phase, with spine growth accelerating in puberty (2).
How much Vitamin D is required?
This is where it gets tricky, and I recommend that you consult your child’s doctor if in doubt.
While there’s moderate evidence that supplementing 200-400IU/day vitamin D3 supplementation for at least 1 year increases bone mineral density in premenarchal females (i.e., the years just prior to menstruation onset), supplementing vitamin D when it’s not needed isn’t recommended. Vitamin D is a fat-soluble vitamin that is stored in the body, and if your child or pre-teen has too much it can impact other minerals (4). Their vitamin D level depends how much sunshine exposure they’re getting on their skin and what they’re eating. Also, vitamin D helps to absorb calcium, and supplementing for vitamin D alone will not address any bone mineral density risks if your pre-teen is deficient in calcium (5).
If you think your child is deficient in vitamin D, talk to their doctor about testing and supplementation (1). In the meantime, encourage them to get some sunshine (sun-safe of course!) and provide foods rich in vitamin D.
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Vanessa Vanderhoek is a functional medicine nutritionist specializing in the gut microbiome, biochemistry and nutrigenomics. She helps people to regain their health by taking a “food as medicine” approach that's unique to their body.
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1. Stroud M, Stilgoe S, Stott, V. Vitamin D: A Review. Australian Family Physician. 2008;37(12):1002-1005.
2. Viljakainen HT, Natri AM, Kärkkäinen M, Huttunen MM, Palssa A, Jakobsen J, et al. A positive dose-response effect of vitamin D supplementation on site-specific bone mineral augmentation in adolescent girls: a double-blinded randomized placebo-controlled 1-year intervention. J Bone Miner Res. 2006;21(6):836-44.
3. El-Hajj Fuleihan, G., Nabulsi, M., Tamim, H., Maalouf, J., Salamoun, M., Khalife, H., Choucair, M., Arabi, A., & Vieth, R. (2006). Effect of vitamin D replacement on musculoskeletal parameters in school children: a randomized controlled trial. The Journal of clinical endocrinology and metabolism, 91(2), 405–412. https://doi.org/10.1210/jc.2005-1436
4. Sharawat IK, Dawman L. Bone mineral density and its correlation with vitamin D status in healthy school-going children of Western India. Archives of Osteoporosis. 2019;14(1).
5. Weaver CM, Gordon CM, Janz KF, Kalkwarf HJ, Lappe JM, Lewis R, O'Karma M, Wallace TC, Zemel BS. The National Osteoporosis Foundation's position statement on peak bone mass development and lifestyle factors: a systematic review and implementation recommendations. Osteoporos Int. 2016 Apr;27(4):1281-1386. doi: 10.1007/s00198-015-3440-3. Epub 2016 Feb 8. Erratum in: Osteoporos Int. 2016 Apr;27(4):1387. PMID: 26856587; PMCID: PMC4791473.