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Vitamin D Deficiency in 20% of American Children

Vitamin D

American children between the ages of 1 and 11, at least one in five, are at risk for a variety of health concerns by not getting a sufficient amount of vitamin D.  The data of this first national analysis to assess vitamin D levels among children in this age group were recently published online in the  journal Pediatrics.

The results of the study shows us that millions of U.S. children may not be getting the correct amount vitamin D to promote strong bones and prevent the development of rickets, much less an appropriate amount to ward off other serious health conditions. The new findings support prior proof that vitamin D deficiencies exist in adults, children, and even teenagers.  This new evidence is causing growing concerns since new studies have indicated that vitamin D could be influential in the prevention of infections, along with several serious diseases including diabetes, and certain types of cancers.

Children lacking sufficient amounts of vitamin D had increased levels of blood pressure and cholesterol and had a much better chance of being overweight which was noted by this study results.   In addition, new evidence shows that getting plenty of vitamin D may ward off colds, childhood wheezing, and winter-related dry skin eczema.  In the latest study, which included blood tests that measured vitamin D levels of nearly 5,000 children, researchers analyzed info from National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) which were conducted between the years of 2001 and 2006.  Researchers found that 6.4 million of the children (about 20 percent) of children in the targeted age group are sadly lacking in vitamin D. This includes 59 percent of white children, 92 percent of black children, and 80 percent of Hispanic children.

The researchers pointed out that children who were ingesting multivitamins that included vitamin D had higher levels overall. However, less than half of the children were taking any kind of multivitamin at all.   These are “astounding numbers,”  author Dr. Jonathan Mansbach of the Harvard Medical School and Children’s Hospital in Boston proclaimed.  He also stated, “If our associations are correct, this is a big problem.”  Experts recommend children getting a healthy
amount of 400 daily units of vitamin D for the prevention of rickets.  Just by drinking four cups of fortified milk, or eating large amounts of fish a child could easily consume the daily, recommended amount of vitamin D, however, many children do neither.

The best source of vitamin D is natural sunlight.  When the skin is exposed to sunlight, the body makes vitamin D.   Most children don’t stay outdoors long enough to absorb the sunlight necessary for the body to produce the vitamin.  Also, the bodies of children with darker skin often won’t produce enough vitamin D as their skin absorbs less sunlight.  What amount to be deemed healthy?  While 400 daily units may be enough to promote general good health and prevent illness, is it still enough to prevent rickets? Some doctors recommend that newborns should start out getting 400 units of vitamin D a day, and up to 1,000 units per day after the age of 1 year.

For teens, 2,000 units per day is the amount suggested, while for adults the various amounts said to be healthy by experts are up to 10,000 units daily.  Very Few foods contain natural vitamin D. Fatty fish, egg yolks, certain cheeses and a few meats, such as liver are all sources, however, milk and even some cereals are fortified with vitamin D.  In addition he said, “summer sunlight exposure is the major source of vitamin D for most people, but [too much] sun exposure can cause sunburns and eventually skin cancer. Vitamin D supplements are your best bet.

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