Do you know about vitamin D?

Getting enough vitamin D is important for all children and adults, but if you have a daughter who is an athlete, gymnast, or dancer, you may want to pay special attention to nutrition’s new Most Valuable Player.

Among other health benefits, vitamin D may be associated with a lower risk of developing stress fractures in preadolescent and adolescent girls, especially among those very active in high-impact activities, according to a report published by the Archives of Pediatrics and Adolescent Medicine.

Stress fractures, a relatively common sports-related injury, occur when repeated pressure on a bone exceeds its capacity and ability to heal from those forces. But while consumption of calcium and calcium-rich dairy products is routinely encouraged for optimal bone health, researchers at Boston Children’s Hospital found that vitamin D may be even more key.

The study started with 6,712 preadolescent and adolescent girls, ages 9 to 15.

During seven years of follow-up, 3.9 percent of the girls developed a stress fracture. The researchers found dairy and calcium intakes appeared to be unrelated to the risk of developing a stress fracture.

However, vitamin D intake was associated with a lower risk, particularly among those girls who participated in at least one hour a day of high-impact activity.

Vitamin D is known for helping the body absorb calcium and phosphorus. The Institute of Medicine, an independent, nonprofit organization connected to the National Academy of Science, recommends 400 International Units of Vitamin D per day for infants, and 600 units for children and adults.

Most people meet at least some of their vitamin D needs through exposure to sunlight, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. As very few foods in nature contain vitamin D, fortified foods provide most of the vitamin D in the American diet.

Currently, The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that breast-fed infants receive supplements of 400 units per day of vitamin D shortly after birth and continue to receive these supplements until they are weaned and consume vitamin D-fortified formula or fortified milk. The Academy also recommends that older children and adolescents who do not consume 400 units per day through vitamin D-fortified milk and foods should take a 400-unit vitamin D supplement daily.

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