One in Seven Teens Vitamin D Deficient Finds Alarming Analysis

Kathleen Blanchard's picture

The Department of Public Health at Weill Cornell Medical College tells us that one in seven teens is deficient in Vitamin D. Scientists, in 2007, suggested that the lowest acceptable Vitamin D levels should be raised from 11ng/mL to at least 20ng/mL.

Study results showing that one in seven teens are vitamin D deficient, and that vitamin D deficiency is higher in African American teens, are published in the March issue of the journal Pediatrics, and are based on the newest criteria for acceptable levels of vitamin D.

Statistics show that more than half of African-American teens are deficient in vitamin D. Girls are at higher risk than are boys. The study also showed that obesity further puts teens at risk for vitamin D deficiency.

The National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey III was used in the study of vitamin D deficiency among teens. The analysis used data extracted from surveys submitted by 2,955 participants, aged 12 to 19.

Dr. Sandy Saintonge, assistant professor of clinical pediatrics and assistant professor of clinical public health at Weill Cornell Medical College says the statistics are “alarming”. “We need to do a better job of educating the public on the importance of vitamin D, and the best ways to get it.”


Dr. Saintonge is also a pediatric emergency physician at New York Hospital Queens, a member of the NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital Healthcare System. Teens can get more vitamin D from foods such as fortified milk, tuna, eggs, salmon and Vitamin D fortified cereals.

Dr. Linda M. Gerber, professor of public health in the Division of Biostatistics and Epidemiology who authored the study says obesity makes it hard to get teen’s vitamin D levels to where they should be. "Because vitamin D is stored in body fat, simply increasing the dosage of vitamin D may not be effective in overweight adolescents. As the prevalence of childhood obesity increases, vitamin D deficiency may increase as well. In this group, appropriate nutrition could solve both problems."

To complicate things further, teen pregnancy in the presence of vitamin D deficiency can lead to multiple complications including poor bone health of teen offspring, diabetes associated with pregnancy, and preeclampsia.

Vitamin D deficiency, found in one in seven teenagers, and more than half of African American teens carries long -term health risks. Good dietary habits, to include a concerted effort to introduce vitamin D rich and fortified foods can ensure good bone health in teens, extending into adulthood.

Vitamin D deficiency in adults is linked to heart disease, cancer, diabetes, high blood pressure and immune dysfunction.