Seven out of ten US children lack enough vitamin D

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New research from Albert Einstein College of Medicine of Yeshiva University shows that seven out of ten US children do not have enough vitamin D to sustain good health, putting millions of children at risk for heart disease, and high blood pressure. Researchers looked at 6000 children to find the widespread prevalence of vitamin D deficiency, defined at less than 15mg/ml. Vitamin D insufficiency is defined as 15 to 29/ml of blood.

The study, published in the online journal Pediatrics also suggests that vitamin D deficiency and insufficiency among children may be responsible for the increased rates of rickets among US children. Rickets is a condition caused by lack of vitamin D that interferes with bone growth, causing them to be soft.

Lead study author Michal L. Melamed, M.D., assistant professor of medicine, epidemiology, and population health at Einstein says, "Several small studies had found a high prevalence of vitamin D deficiency in specific populations of children, but no one had examined this issue nationwide”.

Several studies suggest that adults are not getting enough vitamin D, and this is the first study that shows children are becoming increasingly at risk from low levels of vitamin D necessary for overall health.

The researchers discovered that seven out of ten US children lack enough vitamin D to stay healthy by analyzing data on more than 6,000 children, ages one to 21, gathered from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) 2001-2004. They found that 7.6 million children in the US are vitamin D deficient.

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Study author Juhi Kumar, M.D., M.P.H., a fellow in pediatrics at Children's Hospital at Montefiore Medical Center, The University Hospital and Academic Medical Center for Albert Einstein College of Medicine says, "We expected the prevalence of vitamin D deficiency would be high, but the magnitude of the problem nationwide was shocking.”

Kumar says children have become sedentary, contributing to the problem of vitamin D deficiency. “The widespread use of sunscreens, which block UV-B rays, has only compounded the problem." Children spend less time outdoors, compounding the widespread problem of vitamin D deficiency and insufficiency.

The authors suggest that vitamin D supplementation is especially important for children living in the Northern hemisphere where sunshine is less prevalent where sunshine benefits are weak. Children should be encouraged to spend at least 20 minutes a day outside.

Low vitamin D levels were prevalent among females, African-American, Mexican-American, and obese children, and included those who drank milk less than once a week, or spent more than four hours a day watching TV, playing videogames, or using computers.

Pediatricians are encouraged to screen children at high risk for Vitamin D deficiency. Children who took 400IU of vitamin D daily were less likely to be deficient. The authors say vitamin D supplements can help with the widespread problem of low levels of vitamin D discovered from the study among US children.

Source: Albert Einstein College of Medicine

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