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Vitamin D helps overweight toddlers reduce body fat

Vitamin D

(NaturalNews) Vitamin D, also known as the sunshine vitamin, plays a significant role in the absorption of calcium. Our bodies need calcium to build bones and keep them strong. Despite the name, vitamin D is actually considered a hormone and not a vitamin.

Unlike other vitamins, our bodies are capable of producing its vitamin D through the action of sunlight on the skin. The ultraviolet B rays from the sun react with cholesterol to produce vitamin D. Many toddlers these days don't have access to the sunshine for most of the year, and when they do, clothing or sunscreen protects their fragile skin.

Vitamin D linked to lower body fat in toddlers

Researchers from the McGill University in Montreal, Canada, followed up on a 2013 study to see if there was a link between vitamin D supplementation and bone density in the first 12 to 36 months.

While they were initially interested in confirming the importance of vitamin D for bone density, they made the surprising discovery that Vitamin D in the first year of life may help children gain muscle mass and avoid excess body fat.

"We were very intrigued by the higher lean mass, the possibility that vitamin D can help infants to not only grow healthy skeletons but also healthy amounts of muscle and less fat," says Hope Weiler, director of the Mary Emily Clinical Nutrition Research Unit at McGill University.

For the first time, researchers have found a correlation between lean muscle mass and vitamin D levels in the body during the first three years of a child's life. Apart from the level of physical activity, this is the only factor that has ever been reported to make a significant difference to a child's body composition.

The results were recently published in the journal Pediatric Obesity.

Kids might need much more vitamin D than previously thought

A total of 132 infants were given vitamin D3 supplements at one of four different dosages between the ages of 1 and 12 months. To assess bone density, the scientists used body scans, which also allowed the team to measure children's muscle and fat mass.

The findings confirmed the importance of vitamin D supplementation of 400 IU a day during a baby's first year for the development of strong, healthy bones. Higher doses didn't provide any additional benefits when it came to bone development. However, some unexpected results were revealed regarding muscle and fat mass.

While there were no significant differences in body composition across the different dosage groups, toddlers whose Vitamin D stores were above the 400 IU threshold recommended by the Canadian Paediatric Society, averaged around 450 grams less body fat at the age of 3 years, compared with those with lower vitamin D levels.

Vitamin D supplements are routinely recommended for children until they can get an adequate amount through sun exposure and their diet. However, only a handful of foods contain significant quantities of this essential nutrient, making sun exposure the primary source.

For this reason, it is important for children and adults alike to supplement with vitamin D during the darker winter months.

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