Halloween and Unicef

Every year at church my kids assemble and take home “Trick or Treat for UNICEF” boxes. We have always only put our own money in, because really, how many of your neighbors are prepared with money rather than candy or trinkets? This year for some reason I was particularly struck by the reasonable amounts of dollars that would provide water and nutrition for children in the developing world and the irony of giving empty calories to often overfed (but possibly still undernourished) American children. And I have tried many different “healthy” snacks, or non-food items like pencils, but I can’t stand the disappointed looks from recipients, so…

This year we will hand out only one fun-size chocolate with a card my younger daughter wrote, “You’re helping kids in need just by stopping here. Because for every trick-or-treater who comes here, we donate 25 cents to UNICEF. Thank You!!” Next to that she pasted the facts from the back of the “Trick or Treat for UNICEF” box: “6 cents provides water for 1 thirsty kid; $2 provides nutrition for 1 hungry kid; $44 provides school supplies to 20 kids; $112 provides emergency blankets to 37 kids; $200 immunizes 550 kids against measles.”

Related Post:

Teaching percentages

Are your children getting enough Vitamin D?

This post was contributed by Caitlin Hosmer Kirby, MS, RD, a senior nutritionist at Harvard-affiliated Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston, MA. Thank you, Caitlin!

Are your children getting enough Vitamin D? The answer for most is NO. Up to 52% of teenagers have been found to be vitamin D deficient; 32% of medical students were deficient even though they take a multivitamin and drink one glass of milk daily. These deficiencies are based on measures that may themselves be inadequate.

Recently fifteen experts from universities, research institutes, and university hospitals around the world called for international agencies to “reassess as a matter of high priority” dietary recommendations for vitamin D because current advice is outdated and puts the public at risk of deficiency (The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, Vol. 85, pp. 860-868, March 2007).

Why do we need Vitamin D?

Current research has implicated vitamin D deficiency as a major factor in the pathology of at least 17 varieties of cancer as well as heart disease, stroke, hypertension, autoimmune diseases, diabetes, depression, chronic pain, osteoarthritis, osteoporosis, muscle weakness, muscle wasting, birth defects, periodontal disease, and more. In the October 2008 newsletter of the Vitamin D Council, Dr. John Cannell also writes that “activated vitamin D almost assuredly varies among organs as well, explaining why one vitamin D deficient child gets asthma, another frequent infections, another heart disease, another rickets, another diabetes, and another cavities. When the vitamin D deficiency occurs in the womb, the results also vary in later life, from autism to type-1 diabetes to cancer.”
Factors that decrease or block the natural formation of vitamin D in the skin (the most effective form of the vitamin) include: using sunscreen, living in a location above 40 degrees North latitude (north of Atlanta), having dark skin, being overweight and being elderly.  (While being elderly is an increased risk of deficiency because our skin less effectively converts the sun to active vitamin D, this is a crucial vitamin along the entire life cycle including during pregnancy.)

How much Vitamin D is enough?
The American Academy of Pediatrics recently increased the recommendation for children from 200 IU to 400 IU.  While it is encouraging to see a response to the research, this is still woefully inadequate.   Most multivitamin formulations, including those for children, look to a national recommendation for levels of vitamin D and so provide an inadequate amount.  Some more informed and progressive companies have already improved their formulations to include larger quantities of vitamin D but this is happening slowly.

Individuals vary in their ability to use Vitamin D. However, as a general rule, breast-fed infants need 1,000 IU per day whereas bottle-fed infants need 600 IU per day. Children generally need about 1,000 IU for every 25 pounds of body weight. So a 75 pound nine-year-old needs about 3,000 IU per day. They don’t need to take it in the summer if they spend time outside without sunblock. Canada has recommended that everyone take at least 2,000 IU a day, safe for both children and adults as a maintenance dose.

What kind of Vitamin D should I use? Where can I get it?

Be sure to use Vitamin D3. D3 in 1,000 IU tablets by Nature Made are available in most pharmacies in the USA and Canada. Bio Tech Pharmacal offers great prices on 1,000 and 5,000 IU capsules. Life Extension Foundation also offers 1,000 and 5,000 IU capsules.  Ddrops from Carlson with 400, 1,000 and 2,000 IU per drop, are perfect for children.  LifeSpan Nutrition has a variety of vitamin D preparations.

Further reading:

Hunter D, et al. Genetic contribution to bone metabolism, calcium excretion, and vitamin D and parathyroid hormone regulation. J Bone Miner Res. 2001 Feb;16(2):371-8.

Wjst M, et al. A genome-wide linkage scan for 25-OH-D(3) and 1,25-(OH)2-D3 serum levels in asthma families. J Steroid Biochem Mol Biol. 2007 Mar;103(3-5):799-802.

Orton SM, et al. Evidence for genetic regulation of vitamin D status in twins with multiple sclerosis. Am J Clin Nutr. 2008 Aug;88(2):441-7.

Doorway to Dinosaurs

University of California Museum of Paleontology invites students to discover prehistoric life in the U.S. by state and time period, see famous fossil localities and assemblages, and search fossil images and paleontology collections from participating museums.  At their Paleontology Portal, you can find field guides, maps, curricula, and K-12 resources, as well as learn about about careers in paleontology.

Current Book Club Picks

Trilogies have captured the sixth-graders’ imagination recently. Last week they discussed Jonah’s pick:  Terry Pratchett’s satire of religion and self-imposed limitations, Truckers, first in a trilogy.  And Kalvin announced his pick for November: the third Ink*book by Cornelia Funke, Inkdeath. I hope those of you who read the very long first two books will not be too bummed out that they are summarized in about four pages at the beginning of the third book. At least this helps those of us who hadn’t read them to just jump in at the third book.

For the fourth-graders, Zack selected Heat by Mike Lupica.

More book club recommendations:

Parent-child book clubs,

September Book Club Picks,

June Book Club Picks,

Book Club,

Make your own Pop-Up Cards,

NY Times reviews final Harry Potter tome