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Millions of kids in US confirmed vitamin D deficient

Kathleen Blanchard's picture

A large study conducted by Children's Hospital Boston shows that millions of children in the US, age 1 to 11, are vitamin D deficient. For the analysis, vitamin D levels were deficient in 20 percent of all children, falling below the recommended 50 nmol/L.

Scientists used data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) that looked at 5,000 children from 2001-2006. Applying the findings to the entire US population revealed that black and Hispanic children were at highest risk for vitamin D deficiency. More than eight percent of Hispanic and 92 percent of black children were determined to have vitamin D levels below 75 nmol/L. Though the current recommendation for optimal vitamin D level is 50 nmol/L, some studies suggest in order to prevent cancer and heart disease, vitamin D levels should in the blood should be at least 75 nmol/L (30 ng/ml), and possibly 100 nmol/L (40 ng/ml).

The study is led by Jonathan Mansbach, MD who says, "If 75 nmol/L or higher is eventually demonstrated to be the healthy normal level of vitamin D, then there is much more vitamin D deficiency in the U.S. than people realize.”

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The study authors suggest that all children should take vitamin D supplements to potentially reduce incidence of respiratory infection, eczema and allergies, shown by recent studies, and promote bone growth. Lack of sunshine due to risk of skin cancer from the sun, our best source of vitamin D, and poor intake of fish and liver among children in the US points to the need for all children to take vitamin D supplements to reduce vitamin D deficiency found to affect millions of children in the US.

Dr. Mansbach says more studies are needed to determine whether vitamin D can prevent a wide array of health problems. "At present, however, there are a lot of studies demonstrating associations between low levels of vitamin D and poor health. Therefore, we believe many U.S. children would likely benefit from more vitamin D."

Children living in high latitudes where sunshine is sparse in the winter months are especially at high risk for vitamin D deficiency. The new study shows that millions of children in the US are have vitamin D deficiency. Until more studies are done to determine optimal levels, the researchers suggest that all children be given vitamin D supplements.