At least 20 percent of U.S. children, ages one through 11, do not get enough vitamin D, according to a national analysis. That translates to more than six million U.S. kids.
Increasingly, the vitamin is being praised for its ability to fight cancer, diabetes, to create strong bones, and a healthy immune system.
Many recommend it to increase immunity to the swine flu virus.
The analysis, published in the journal Pediatrics, was conducted out of Harvard Medical School and Children’s Hospital in Boston.
Lead author, Dr. Jonathan Mansbach, says the study should serve as a call to action.
This is the first assessment of vitamin D and levels in young children using data from a government health survey of almost 5,000 children under the age of 12, taken from 2001 to 2006.
Among the findings - almost 90 percent of African-American children and 80 percent of Latino kids could be deficient in vitamin D.
A study from March also found half of black teenagers may be lacking in vitamin D.
"Given the preponderance of data and the safety profile of vitamin D, we believe many U.S. children would likely benefit from more vitamin D," Dr. Mansbach said to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.
The Public Health Agency of Canada has begun studying the role of vitamin D in protection against the swine flu.
And the Vitamin D Council purports that influenza is a symptom of vitamin D deficiency.
The Institute of Medicine is expected to issue a report on vitamin D next year which will help set dietary standards.
The daily amount of vitamin D is subject to debate but for the study less than the recommended 50 mnol/L (nanomoles per liter) level of vitamin D was considered deficient. Naturally, it comes from exposure to unprotected skin to the sunshine.
Less than half of the children in the survey were taking a multivitamin that can include some vitamin D.
Using sun as a source, exposure to skin without sun screen is recommended for at least 15 minutes daily, but experts say that the UVB rays in the Northeast during the winter are insufficient for vitamin D production.
Few foods contain the vitamin. Eggs and fortified foods such as dairy have some vitamin D added.
Supplementation levels have been suggested at between 800 IU to 2,000 IU daily. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends 400 IU of vitamin D daily.
Dr. Michael F. Holick, professor of medicine, physiology and biophysics and director of the Vitamin D, Skin and Bone Research Laboratory at the Boston University School of Medicine, said that "we estimate that vitamin D deficiency is the most common medical condition in the world."
He tells the Atlanta Journal-Constitution that children should take a vitamin D supplement at about 400 IU a day up to the age of 1. Young children should up intake to 1,000 IU daily, and teens up to 2,000 IU a day.
He says he would prefer to see the first year of life recommendation raised to 5,000 IU daily and 10,000 IU for adults. #