Children's Hospital Colorado

Calcium and Vitamin D Deficiency: What You Need to Know

A young girl in a yellow tank top sits and eats yogurt for its vitamin D.

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:

Food Sources Serving Size Calcium (mg) Vitamin D (IU)
Dairy Products
Milk - whole, 2%, nonfat 8oz. 300 100
Yogurt, plain or fruit-fortified with vitamin D 8oz. 250-450 100
Other Fortified Beverages and Foods
Calcium fortified soy or rice milk 8oz. 300-350 100
Calcium fortified orange juice 8oz. 300 140
Fortified cereals 1 cup 100-1000 Variable

 

Other resources:

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.

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