If you want your kids to stay healthy, you had best give them a daily dose of outdoor playtime. Old fashioned as it sounds, daily exposure to the sun is probably all that they need to absorb Vitamin D, a fat soluble vitamin necessary for building strong bones and preventing disease.
The American Academy of Pediatrics has changed its stance on its Vitamin D recommendations for kids. Up until now the accepted daily dosage of Vitamin D intake had been 200IU. However, pediatricians are now recommending that children receive double this amount of because of increasing evidence pointing to its ability to help reduce the risk for cancer, diabetes and heart disease
Food vs. Sunlight: The Better Way To Absorb Vitamin D
Although most Americans rely on dietary intake of this precious vitamin, the truth is that it naturally occurs in very few foods. The flesh of oily fish (such as salmon, tuna, and mackerel) and fish liver oils are among the best sources. Small amounts of vitamin D are found in beef liver, cheese and egg yolks. Although some foods are fortified with the vitamin and although supplements can be found aplenty, it is not clear how well the body can absorb Vitamin D from any of these ‘artificial’ food sources.
Sun exposure is probably the most reliable ‘old-school’ method to meeting your Vitamin D needs. According to the national Institute of Health (NIH), Vitamin D can easily be absorbed through uncovered skin by exposing it to ultraviolet (UV) rays of sunlight for around 30 minutes a day between the hours of 10 am and 3 pm.
Of course much of this depends upon where you are: season, geographic latitude, time of day, cloud cover, smog, skin melanin content, and sunscreen are among the factors that affect UV radiation exposure and vitamin D synthesis. The UV energy of California and Boston is insufficient for vitamin D synthesis in the skin from November through February. Further north this reduced intensity lasts for up to 6 months but south of Los Angeles or South Carolina, your skin can produce vitamin D throughout the year.
Increasing Evidence of Vitamin D Deficiency
One thing is for sure, most people get much less exposure to the sun today then they did in the past. This is partly because we have shifted to an indoor lifestyle and partly because cloud cover has increased substantially given increasing pollution levels all over the world. Agricultural societies still have more than their fair share of VItamin D exposure but even these are becoming fewer and far between.
Ayurvedically speaking, one of the most obvious signs of Vitamin D deficiency is hair loss (alopecia). The strength of the hair and hair follicles depends entirely upon the quality of bones and bone marrow. Alopecia is much more common today than it was in the past. Other more obvious signs of Vitamin D deficiency include weaker bones, osteoporosis, diabetes and heart disease.
Why Should Kids Prioritize Vitamin D Absorption?
Well, for the very simple reason that as you grow older, it becomes more difficult for your gut and your bones to absorb minerals (calcium) and Vitamin D. Calcium intake is believed to be optimal before a child hits puberty.
So I say let the children play. There is nothing like a good old-fashioned dose of Vitamin D from the sun each day.