The majority of children and adolescents with inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) do not get enough calcium and vitamin D through the diet, which jeopardizes their bone health and other issues related to low levels of the two nutrients, researchers warn.
Although it can be challenging to ensure these children get enough of those nutrients, researchers urge parents of IBD children to carefully monitor their diet.
The study, “Paediatric IBD patients do not meet the daily recommendations of vitamin D and calcium intake: survey based analysis in a tertiary centre,” was presented at the 12th Congress of the European Crohn’s and Colitis Organization in February.
Researchers at the Great Ormond Street Hospital for Children in London, U.K., came to this conclusion after accomplishing a survey, in which children with IBD were asked to describe their dietary intake of foods that contained calcium and vitamin D in the past 24 hours.
The survey revealed that only 26.6% of patients had a sufficient intake of calcium, and 21.3% ate enough vitamin D-containing food.
Medical experts from United European Gastroenterology (UEG) now call for immediate interventions to make sure children and adolescents with IBD are not put at risk of calcium and vitamin D deficiencies. But dietician Rita Shergill-Bonner, the study’s lead author, said that making sure these children eat enough of foods containing the two nutrients is challenging.
“When taking into account their young age and modern eating habits, coupled with the emotional, psychological and physical stress of living with IBD, it can be hard for paediatric patients to maintain a balanced diet and a sufficient intake of the right nutrients,” Shergill-Bonner, the principal dietician at Great Ormond Street Hospital for Children, said in a press release.
“We, therefore, urge the parents and carers of pediatric IBD patients to monitor their children’s diets carefully to ensure they are consuming the right foods to help their disease course and ensure adequate and normal development,” added Shergill-Bonner.
The results might explain earlier research showing that pediatric IBD patients often have poor bone health. Calcium and vitamin D are also needed for a variety of body processes, including those of the immune system.
But healthcare providers also need to do their share to support parents and patients with the required knowledge, according to Gigi Veereman, MD, UEG pediatric IBD expert.
“It is imperative that healthcare professionals provide all IBD patients with regular and frequent advice on nutrition and healthy eating habits, including guidance on food sources that are rich in calcium and vitamin D,” said Veereman. “Tailored care services, long-term follow-up, regular reviews and frequent medical interventions are required to minimize additional health risk in our pediatric patients”
Although the current study focused on diet, sun exposure is really the main source of vitamin D. A recent study warned that the frequent use of sunscreen when outside may prevent the body from producing enough of the vitamin. That study, however, did not look specifically at IBD patients.