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Study Examines Impact of Vitamin D Supplements on Infant Bone Health

March 22, 2016

Vitamin D plays an important role in skeletal growth and maintenance and helps people avoid poor bone health. Childhood and infancy may be critical periods to optimize bone health. A 2008 statement from the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends all breastfed infants should receive supplemental vitamin D intake of 400 IU (International Units) per day until they can obtain this amount through their diet. Higher amounts of vitamin may provide benefits to bone health.

A new study, led by Sina Gallo, assistant professor in the Department of Nutrition and Food Studies, examines whether increased vitamin D supplementation in breastfed infants has long-term bone health effects at 3 years of age. The study is published in Osteoporosis International.

“There have not been many studies that examine high-dose vitamin D supplements in infants, and data is particularly lacking in long-term follow-up studies,” Gallo said. “Our study, the first long-term follow-up of infant vitamin D dose-response, provides an important perspective to informing pediatric health recommendations when it comes to vitamin D intake and supplementation.”

This study was a follow-up from a double-blind randomized trial of 132 breastfed infants from Montréal, Canada. The infants were randomized to receive 400, 800, 1,200, or 1,600 IU/day of an oral vitamin D3 supplement from 1 to 12 months of age. Sixty-six percent (87 infants) returned for a three-year follow-up visit. At follow-up, the children’s bone mineral density and bone mineral content were measured using dual-energy X-ray absorptiometry. The three-year follow-up results did not show any additional benefits for bone mineralization in those receiving vitamin D dosages greater than the current standard of care of 400 IU/day.

“While our results showed no difference in bone mineral density and bone mineral content among the various infant groups, the results support current guidelines that recommend infants receive 400 IU/day of vitamin D,” Gallo said. “Additional research is needed to explore the role of vitamin D supplementation in children at risk for vitamin D deficiency, including those with darker skin pigmentation.”

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