A person's bones continue to grow through childhood, and depending on the individual, often throughout the teen years. Growth spurts typically occur through the midteens. There's no question that vitamin D is important for healthy bone growth. However, there is also no scientific evidence that shows mega-doses of vitamin D promote bone growth, and in too much of this fat soluble supplement may be dangerously toxic, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics' HealthyChildren.org. Instead look to sunlight and Vitamin D-enriched milk. Approximately 15 percent of high school students shun milk for reasons such as concern with looking cool to worry about getting fat, according to Neville H. Golden, pediatrics professor at Stanford School of Medicine. Finding creative ways to get milk into your teens' diet can promote bone growth during this period of rapid development, which can reduce the risk of stress fractures, osteoporosis and other serious health concerns in later years.
Reasons to Take Vitamin D
Vitamin D facilitates your teen's absorption of calcium to strengthen his bones, teeth and improves nerve and muscle function. A vitamin D deficiency can interfere with your teen's growth and prevent him from achieving his full bone density potential. It takes only 10 to 15 minutes of strong, direct sunlight daily to supply all the Vitamin D your teenager needs, according to the Center for Young Women's Health. However, teens in northern latitudes, cloudy climates or who do not spend much time outside or who have darker skin, may need a diet with higher concentrations of Vitamin D or to take a multivitamin or Vitamin D supplement. Consult your teens' healthcare provider for the best recommendation based on your teen's individual health condition.The CYWH touts Vitamin D-enriched milk and other dairy products as the best source of dietary Vitamin D. If your teen is concerned with the fat content in milk, purchase 2 percent or skim milk.
The Calcium Connection
A vitamin D deficiency reduces your teen's ability to properly absorb the 1,300 milligrams of daily calcium recommended by the American Academy of Pediatrics at HealthyChildren.org. When his blood calcium levels drop, vitamin D changes to active form. It then moves into the intestines to promote more calcium absorption and to the kidneys to slow the rate of calcium loss through urine, explains the Harvard School of Public Health's website. Vitamin D also boosts his immune system to give his body greater infection-fighting power; and reduces the inflammation of autoimmune bone diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis.
For best absorption of the recommended daily allowance of calcium, TeenHealth.org reports that teens need a minimum of 600 IU up to a maximum of 2000 IU of Vitamin D daily. While fish, egg yolks, fortified orange juice, broccoli and leafy, green vegetables will provide vitamin D to your teen's diet, milk provides a higher concentration of vitamin D, as well as calcium. The Vitamin D in cheese and yogurt can be comparable to milk, depending on the brands. Without sufficient Vitamin D to support calcium absorption, your teen's body will start pulling the necessary calcium from his bones, explains the Center for Young Women's Health, thus reducing bone density and strength. Therefore, drinking Vitamin D-enriched milk is a good way to prevent a deficiency and promote healthy bone growth in your teen.
Creative Milk Creations
If your teen is not a fan of drinking plain milk, you can slip milk into his diet with a little culinary creativity. Start your teen's day off right with a milk-based fruit smoothie. A dash of milk to scrambled eggs adds a minuscule amount of Vitamin D while pouring milk over his favorite breakfast cereal or granola and drinking the remains significantly boosts the Vitamin D intake. Make hot cereal with milk or whisk up a cream soup or a pot of macaroni and cheese for lunch or dinner. Mix chocolate or strawberry syrup or hot chocolate powder into milk or make a milkshake for a sweet treat. Make pudding for dessert. Any little bit of milk you can sneak into the menu will all count toward your teen's Vitamin D levels for better bone health.