In addition to being a pediatric dietitian, I am the mother of two adolescent athletes. One of my kids is lactose intolerant (his body has trouble digesting lactose, a sugar in milk), while the other has recently decreased his milk intake. I know that vitamin D deficiency among some of our adults and kids is on the rise. Here are a few reasons why I should be concerned:
Who is at risk of calcium and vitamin D deficiency?
- Female athletes in sports that focus on lean physique (see recent post: Female Athlete Triad)
- Kids who choose to drink soda, juice and sports beverages instead of milk
- Kids who are inactive or don’t spend time outside for sun exposure
- Kids who are lactose intolerant or allergic to milk
Why should we care about calcium and vitamin D for our athletes?
- Vitamin D promotes absorption of calcium, and we depend on these nutrients for strong bones (adolescence is when we build our bone mass)
- Strong bones help prevent bone injuries
- Lack of calcium in our diet forces the body to take calcium from bones to keep blood levels normal, which weakens bones
- Calcium is a key nutrient for muscle contraction, nerve transmission and hormone secretion (all of which are crucial functions for athletes)
What can you do to keep your athlete’s calcium and vitamin D levels healthy?
- Ask for a vitamin D level on your child the next time they get their blood drawn
- Encourage calcium and vitamin D rich food and fluids 3-4 times per day
- Ask your provider if they think your child might be a candidate for a calcium and/or vitamin d supplement
Kid requirements for calcium and vitamin D each day:
|Kids 4-8 years
||1,000 mg of calcium and 600 IU of vitamin D
|Kids 9-18 years
||1,300 mg of calcium and 600 IU of vitamin D
Food and fluid sources for calcium and vitamin D:
||Vitamin D (IU)
|Milk - whole, 2%, nonfat
|Yogurt, plain or fruit-fortified with vitamin D
|Other Fortified Beverages and Foods
|Calcium fortified soy or rice milk
|Calcium fortified orange juice
The Office of Dietary Supplements website provides a comprehensive list of foods containing vitamin D and calcium.
Written by: Lauren Furuta, MOE, RD, Clinical Nutrition, Children’s Hospital Colorado. To find out more about nutrition tips, read our sports nutrition articles, or schedule an appointment at 720-777-6600. We are happy to consult with parents or referring providers before a patient is seen at Children’s Colorado.