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Separating reliable medical information about vitamins from media hype about the latest "immune-boosting anti-oxidants" isn't easy, even for health professionals. That's why it's critical for all parents to know some medically sound facts about three key vitamins that might even save a child's life.
1) Vitamin D
Consider the shocking cases of two children recently treated at my institution— an infant admitted with sudden convulsions, and another toddler who one day was unable to walk. Both of their conditions could have been prevented with a simple supplement: Daily vitamin D drops.
Like a banker controlling cash flow from an account, vitamin D regulates calcium levels in the blood by withdrawing or depositing the mineral in the body to maintain a stable supply. Without enough vitamin D, the body undergoes a sort of financial panic where calcium levels can fluctuate wildly, which leads to seizures in babies or rickets (a bone-softening disorder) in older children.
There are several reasons why children are often low in vitamin D. Last year, researchers in Iowa reported that up to three-quarters of all breast-fed infants are deficient in vitamin D, since maternal milk is relatively low in vitamin D. Anecdotal evidence suggest the problem has been worsening recently, since many mothers are also deficient (and thus, can't pass along enough to their developing babies during pregnancy). There has also been an increase in widespread use of sunscreen on babies, which markedly reduces the body's ability to make the vitamin naturally. This is especially a problem for dark-skinned children, who need more sunlight than fair-skinned kids to make the vitamin. (Most cases of severe deficiency occur in children of color.)