A new study is revealing a fact that most parents don’t realize or understand: 1 in 5 U.S. kids don’t get enough vitamin D. Could your child or grandchild be one of them?
The AP is reporting that, according to a study published in Pediatrics, “at least one in five US children aged one to 11 don’t get enough vitamin D and could be at risk for a variety of health problems, including weak bones.”
Harvard University researchers analyzed “data from a 2001-06 government health survey of nearly 3,000 children” who had undergone “blood tests measuring vitamin D levels.”
The investigators found that “about 20 percent of kids” under 12 had “blood levels that are too low.”
In addition, “applying a less strict, higher cutoff,” the study authors found that “two-thirds of children that age, including 90 percent of black kids and 80 percent of Hispanics, are deficient in vitamin D.”
The findings add to mounting evidence about vitamin D deficiency in children, teens and adults, a concern because of recent studies suggesting the vitamin might help prevent serious diseases, including infections, diabetes and even some cancers.
While hard evidence showing that low levels of vitamin D lead to disease or that high levels prevent it is lacking, it’s a burgeoning area of research.
Exactly how much vitamin D children and adults should get, and defining when they are deficient, is under debate. Doctors use different definitions, and many are waiting for guidance expected in an Institute of Medicine report on vitamin D due next year. The institute is a government advisory group that sets dietary standards.
Previous studies in the journal Pediatrics this year found low levels were prevalent in U.S. teens, and also showed kids with low levels had higher blood pressure and cholesterol levels, and were more likely to be overweight.
A Pediatrics editorial says the strongest evidence about effects of vitamin D deficiency in kids involves rickets, a bone disease common a century ago but that continues to occur.
Rickets can be treated and prevented with 400 units daily of vitamin D, the editorial says. The pediatricians’ group recently recommended that amount for all children, saying that most need vitamin supplements.
Children can get 400 units daily by drinking four cups of fortified milk, or eating lots of fish, but many don’t do that.
The body also makes vitamin D when sunlight hits the skin, but many children don’t spend enough time outdoors. That’s one reason why lower vitamin D levels are found in children living in colder climates and those with darker skin, which absorbs less sunlight.
Here are some of my other blogs on vitamin D: