In 2008, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) doubled the recommended daily intake of vitamin D for infants and children, from 200 IU to 400 IU. But two years later the daily dose of this vitamin for most infants in the US is still coming up short, a new report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) showed. Published March 22, 2010, in an online edition of the journal Pediatrics, the study of breastfed and formula-fed infants found that among babies who were exclusively breastfed, only 5 percent to 13 percent received enough vitamin D. For infants on both formula and breast milk, 28 percent to 35 percent took in 200 IUs of vitamin D a day, but only 9 percent to 14 percent received the recommended 400 IUs a day. For infants fed exclusively with formula, 81 percent to 98 percent received 200 IUs a day, but only 20 percent to 37 percent took in the recommended 400 IUs.
In the past, "it was assumed that children receiving formula didn't need a vitamin D supplement, because they were getting it from the formula," says lead researcher Cria G. Perrine in an interview with HealthDay via Business Week. "Most infants need a vitamin D supplement, and we are not only talking about only breastfed children," she adds.
What's the big deal about vitamin D? The "sunshine vitamin" is essential for healthy bone formation and overall health—lack of vitamin D has been linked to many diseases including rickets (soft bone), cancer, type 1 diabetes, and respiratory problems. The skin produces the vitamin when exposed to direct sunlight, but taking in D through diet—especially for babies—is a more reliable way to make sure the body is getting enough.
Current AAP guidelines call for breastfed babies to take a vitamin D supplement (vitamin D drops) to make their daily quotas. And now according to Perrine, pediatricians should encourage parents of infants who are either breastfed or consuming less than 1 liter (just under 1 quart, or 33.8 ounces) of baby formula per day to take an oral vitamin D supplement to meet the 400 IU recommendation.