What role does vitamin D have in childhood development?
Vitamin D plays a number of important roles throughout childhood including bone and muscle development, immune health and general health.
Bone growth and development
During childhood and adolescence our bones are continually growing and developing. How well they develop and how strong they become, depends on the amount of minerals we accumulate such as calcium and phosphorus, which make up a significant portion of our bone structure. Vitamin D is needed by the body to absorb and utilize calcium and phosphorus and therefore plays a major role in healthy bone growth and development. Most of our bone strength and mass is established in childhood and adolescence, so getting enough vitamin D at this time is vital for lifelong bone health.
Insufficient vitamin D, can lead to inadequate mineralization of the skeleton, causing bones to become thin or brittle.1 Adequate vitamin D in childhood is also associated with the improvement of ‘growing pains’ (recurrent lower limb pain), a condition that affects up to almost half of all children.2
Muscle, immune and general health
In addition to strong bone development, vitamin D is involved in other body functions including:
- The proper functioning of the immune system.
- Muscle development and function.
- Good overall health.
As vitamin D is essential to maintain normal levels of calcium and phosphorus in the body, it is indirectly needed to support other important body processes; calcium and phosphorus are needed for muscle contraction, nerve conduction and general cellular function in all cells of the body. There is also growing evidence that optimal vitamin D status throughout all life stages can help protect against various health conditions.3