Peak bone mass attained after skeletal growth is a major determinant of the risk of developing osteoporosis later in life, hence the importance of nutritional factors that contribute to bone mass gain during infancy and adolescence. An adequate supply of vitamin D is essential for normal bone homeostasis. This study was undertaken to determine what the levels are of 25-hydroxyvitamin D (25(OH)D) that may be considered desirable in children and to assess if normal children maintain these levels throughout the year. Vitamin D metabolites and parathyroid hormone (PTH) serum levels were measured in 21 children in March and October, prior to and after the administration of a daily supplement of 25(OH)D (40 microg for 7 consecutive days). There were inverse correlations between basal 25(OH)D levels and supplementation-induced changes in serum 1,25(OH)2D (r = 0.57, p < 0.05) and PTH (r = 0.41, p < 0.05). When basal levels of 25(OH)D were below 20 ng/ml, the supplement induced an increase in serum 1,25(OH)2D; with basal 25(OH)D under 10-12 ng/ml, the supplement also decreased serum PTH. The lowest serum level of 25(OH)D in 43 normal children studied in summer was 13 ng/ml. Those results suggested that the lowest limit for desirable levels of 25(OH)D in children was somewhere between 12 and 20 ng/ml. However, 31% of 51 normal children studied in winter had levels below 12 ng/ml, and 80% had levels lower than 20 ng/ml. Those children are likely to have suboptimal bioavailability of vitamin D, which might hamper their achievement of an adequate peak bone mass. Since cutaneous synthesis of vitamin D is rather limited in winter, oral vitamin D supplementation should be considered.
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