Ask the Nutritionist
Q: My son is a 4-year old acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL) patient who underwent a stem cell transplant recently. He received total body irradiation prior to the transplant and has been avoiding sunlight. Is it advisable for him to take vitamin D3, as I've recently read about its benefits?
EC, Boston, Massachusetts
A: Ask your son’s doctor or dietitian about assessing your child’s vitamin D status and determining the best regimen for his health.
Vitamin D is known to be essential for bone health, and recent research suggests a role for vitamin D in many chronic diseases, including cancer. Several research reports have shown high rates of vitamin D insufficiency and deficiency, including a study at Dana-Farber of children following stem cell transplantation (Duncan et al, 2011).
The recommended dietary allowance (RDA) by the Institute of Medicine for children and adults is 600 IU daily. Sources of vitamin D in the diet include fortified dairy and non-dairy products and fatty fish.
Some people find it difficult to consume enough vitamin D from foods alone and will need supplements, either to maintain or replete vitamin D stores. Two forms of vitamin D supplementation are available, vitamin D2 (ergocalciferol) and vitamin D3 (cholecalciferol). Both forms can be effective in maintaining normal levels, but D3 may be better at correcting severe deficiencies.