Study suggests 70 percent of children, young adults do not get enough vitamin D

USA Today reports that “seven out of 10 children and young adults don’t get enough vitamin D, which could increase their risk for bone and heart problems,” according to a study published online in the journal Pediatrics. Is your child at risk? And, what can you do?

More Information:

Researchers “analyzed data on people ages one to 21 collected by the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey 2001-2004.” The investigators “discovered that nine percent of the study sample – which would project to 7.6 million people 21 and under in the USA – were vitamin-D-deficient. Another 61 percent, the equivalent of 50.8 million nationwide, had insufficient D levels.”

The Institute of Medicine (IOM) is now scheduled to discuss revising guidelines on vitamin D intake.

The Los Angeles Times reports that vitamin D “may have untapped potential in fighting or preventing disease, suggests an explosion of new research.” They add, “Not only has it shown promise in reducing the risk of, among other things, diabetes, pancreatic cancer, breast cancer, and cardiovascular disease, but it also seems to improve infertility, weight control, and memory.”

Next week, “an Institute of Medicine committee will convene in Washington to discuss whether the recommended daily intake of vitamin D and calcium should be increased.” Guidelines “on the vitamin” were last revised in 1997.

The current “recommended daily intake is 200 to 600 international units, with an upper limit of 2,000 IU.”

The IOM will now “ask whether there is existing scientific evidence that is strong enough to make a change,” particularly since “a study in December in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology found that deficiency may increase the risk of cardiovascular disease. Other studies have tied lower levels to an increased risk of hypertension, diabetes, stroke, and congestive heart failure.”

Another study released this month concluded, “Low serum vitamin D in US adolescents is strongly associated with hypertension, hyperglycemia, and metabolic syndrome, independent of adiposity.”

In the meantime, while we await the IOM recommendations, what can a parent do?

The study showed that watching television, playing video games, and using computers for more than four hours a day is associated with vitamin D deficiency in children. So, get your kids away from the screen and outside to play. I’ve got lots of tips on how to do this in my book SuperSized Kids: How to protect your child from the obesity threat.

Also, children who drink milk or take vitamin D supplements are less likely to suffer from vitamin D deficiency. So, either be sure your child gets a couple of glasses of fat-free milk per day, or begin a multivitamin or vitamin D supplement. My guess is the latter is going to be proven more effective.

The recommended dose of vitamin D has been doubled by the American Academy of Pediatrics and is now at least 400 IU per day. You can read more about the recommendation here.

Here are some of my other blogs on vitamin D:

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