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Could Vitamin D
Help Cut Winter Colds?



Arts & Humanities
--Language Arts
--Visual Arts
--Our Bodies
--Life Sciences
--Process Skills


Grades 2-up

News Content

Doctors are learning more about the effects of vitamin D on colds and the body.

Anticipation Guide

Before reading, ask students to share what they know about vitamins. Do any of the students take vitamins each day? Why do they take them? Ask questions that lead them to a basic understanding that different vitamins help the body stay healthy in different ways.

News Words

Next, introduce these words that appear in the News Word Box on the students printable page: vitamin, yogurt, guidelines, yolk, nutrition, and sardines. Discuss the meanings of any of those words that might be unfamiliar. Then ask students to use one of those words to complete each of these sentences:

  • According to the librarys _____, books can be signed out for no more than two weeks at a time. (guidelines)
  • Pauls favorite after-school snack is a cup of strawberry _____. (yogurt)
  • People were packed into the meeting room so tightly that they felt like they were in a can of _____. (sardines)
  • Grandpa takes seven _____ pills each day to help him stay healthy. (vitamin)
  • The yellow egg _____ is a good source of vitamins A and D. (yolk)
  • You can learn a lot about the foods you eat by looking at the _____ panel on their packages. (nutrition)

    Read the News

    Click for a printable version of this weeks news story Could Vitamin D Help Cut Winter Colds?


    Reading the News

    You might use a variety of approaches to reading the news:

    Read aloud the news story to students as they follow along.

    Students might first read the news story to themselves; then you might call on individual students to read sections of the news aloud for the class.

    Photocopy the news story onto a transparency and project it onto a screen. (Or use your classroom computer's projector to project the story.) Read the story aloud as a class, or ask students to take turns reading it.

    Arrange students into small groups. Each student in the group will read a paragraph of the story. As that student reads, others might underline important information or write notes in the margin of the story. After each student finishes reading, others in the group might say something -- a comment, a question, a clarification -- about the text.

    More Facts to Share

    You might share these additional facts with students after they have read this weeks news story.

  • According to recent research reported in the Archives of Internal Medicine, vitamin D may protect people from colds and other respiratory tract infections. The study demonstrated that people with low blood levels of vitamin D were more likely to have had a recent cold. The study included 19,000 people ages 12 and older. At least 50 percent of people in the study had less than recommended levels of Vitamin D.
  • According to the study, people with asthma have an even greater risk than others of catching colds if their vitamin D levels are low. Their risk is about six times greater.
  • The study does add one caution, however. Doctors say it's not clear if low levels of vitamin D make people more susceptible to colds or if colds cause vitamin D levels to drop, possibly because people who feel sick stay inside and out of the sun. The researchers are pretty sure that low levels of D increase the risk of colds because it can take two to three weeks for vitamin D levels in the body to change, while most colds last only three to four days. More studies are being done to get a final answer to the questions surrounding vitamin D.
  • Doctors say many people should be taking vitamin D supplements (capsules or tablets) because they do not get enough of it. That may be especially true with elderly people, who doctors say need more Vitamin D than younger people. And it might be important for people to take in more vitamin D during winter than summer.
  • Vitamin D can have positive effects beyond those associated with colds. People with higher levels of vitamin D may live longer. In addition, vitamin D can help keep bones strong, and, while not conclusively proven, it might play a role in reducing risks for cancer, diabetes, and heart disease.
  • Just as it is possible to get too little vitamin D, it is also possible to get too much. Too much vitamin D can cause kidney stones and other problems.

    Comprehension Check

    Recalling Detail

  • How did doctors guidelines about vitamin D recently change? (Doctors suggest that kids and teens need about 400 units of vitamin D each day; thats up from the previous guidelines, which called for 200 units.)
  • How many glasses of milk would provide 400 daily units of vitamin D? (four glasses of milk)
  • What other foods are good sources of vitamin D? (egg yolks, oily fish, and other foods to which vitamin D has been added)
  • What are scientists doing now to learn whether vitamin D can really help cut winter colds? (They are providing a test group of people with pills. Some people will receive real vitamin D pills, but others will receive pills that have no vitamins in them. That way, scientists will be able to tell if people who take vitamin D really get fewer colds.)
  • How can you tell if foods you eat have vitamin D in them? (by reading the nutrition panels on those foods)
  • How are vitamin D and the sun connected? (Your body makes vitamin D when the sun hits your skin.)
  • Is it possible to get too much vitamin D? (yes, it is possible to get too much of many vitamins)

    Think About the News
    Discuss the Think About the News question that appears on the students news page.

    What nicknames did students share? Doctors often refer to Vitamin D as the sunshine vitamin" because sun exposure triggers the bodys production of the vitamin. But maybe your students came up with an even better nickname.

    Follow-Up Activities

    Health and study skills. Share with students the Internet source KidsHealth for Kids: Vitamins from Have them use the information about vitamins on that page to complete a chart that looks like the one below. Next to each vitamin they should write at least three foods that are sources of that vitamin.

    Vitamins Food Sources of the Vitamin
    Vitamin A
    Important for eyesight and healthy skin
    B Vitamins
    Give you energy and help provide oxygen
    Vitamin C
    Helps keep the body healthy and free of infection
    Vitamin D
    Builds strong bones and teeth, and fights colds
    Vitamin E
    Helps build healthy eyes, skin, and blood
    Vitamin K
    Helps to clot blood: to stop a cut from bleeding

    Health nutrition. Gather a wide variety of food packages (or assign this activity for homework, where students can investigate the foods in their familys refrigerator and cupboards). Challenge students to study the nutrition food labels on a wide variety of foods. Have them list in a notebook or on a chart any foods that are good sources of the vitamins listed on the chart above. Students might create a mural for each of the vitamin groups and attach to the murals the food packages that are the best sources of those vitamins.

    Language arts - reading. Feed" students desire for information by sharing one of these nutritious" books.


    Use the Comprehension Check (above) as an assessment. Or have students work on their own (in their journals) or in their small groups to respond to the Think About the News question on the news story page.

    Lesson Plan Source

    Education World

    National Standards

    FINE ARTS: Visual Arts
    GRADES K - 4
    NA-VA.K-4.6 Making Connections Between Visual Arts and Other Disciplines (e.g., making a mural)
    NA-VA.5-8.6 Making Connections Between Visual Arts and Other Disciplines (e.g., making a mural)
    NA-VA.9-12.6 Making Connections Between Visual Arts and Other Disciplines (e.g., making a mural)

    LANGUAGE ARTS: English
    GRADES K - 12
    NL-ENG.K-12.2 Reading for Understanding
    NL-ENG.K-12.8 Developing Research Skills
    NL-ENG.K-12.12 Applying Language Skills

    MATHEMATICS: Connections
    GRADES Pre-K - 12
    NM-CONN.PK-12.3 Recognize and Apply Mathematics in Contexts Outside of Mathematics

    MATHEMATICS: Representation
    GRADES Pre-K - 12
    NM-REP.PK-12.3 Use Representations to Model and Interpret Physical, Social, and Mathematical Phenomena (e.g., interpret a food label)

    GRADES K - 4
    NPH-H.K-4.1 Health Promotion and Disease Prevention
    NPH-H.K-4.2 Health Information, Products and Services
    NPH-H.K-4.3 Reducing Health Risks
    NPH-H.K-4.4 Health Influences
    GRADES 5 - 8
    NPH-H.5-8.1 Health Promotion and Disease Prevention
    NPH-H.5-8.2 Health Information, Products and Services
    NPH-H.5-8.3 Reducing Health Risks
    NPH-H.5-8.4 Health Influences
    GRADES 9 - 12
    NPH-H.9-12.1 Health Promotion and Disease Prevention
    NPH-H.9-12.2 Health Information, Products and Services
    NPH-H.9-12.3 Reducing Health Risks
    NPH-H.9-12.4 Health Influences

    GRADES K - 4
    NS.K-4.1 Science as Inquiry
    NS.K-4.3 Life Science
    GRADES 5 - 8
    NS.5-8.1 Science as Inquiry
    NS.5-8.3 Life Science
    GRADES 9 - 12
    NS.9-12.1 Science as Inquiry
    NS.9-12.3 Life Science

    See recent news stories in Education Worlds News Story of the Week Archive.


    Article by Ellen Delisio and Gary Hopkins
    Education World®
    Copyright © 2009 Education World