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Vitamin D Deficiency Very Common in Young

Posted by Jane Akre
Tuesday, June 03, 2008 9:53 AM EST
Category: Major Medical, Protecting Your Family
Tags: Vitamin D, Osteoporosis, Bone Disease, Living Well, Vitamins

Vitamin D deficience is common in youngsters and adolescents according to a study.



IMAGE SOURCE:© iStockPhoto/ girl in meadow/ author: arphotokike


There are very few foods that naturally contain vitamin D.  The vitamin is made naturally by the body when exposed to sunlight without sunscreen.

When researchers from Children’s Hospital in Boston found that adolescents were largely deficient in the vitamin (42 percent) they decided to turn their attention to younger children.

The numbers are now in.  At least 40 percent of infants and toddlers are not getting enough of the “Sunshine vitamin” as it’s often called.

The report, in the Archives of Pediatrics and Adolescent Medicine, finds that 28 percent of the youngest children are facing a risk of vitamin D deficiency while 12 percent are already deficient.

Researchers defined a severe deficiency as a blood level of vitamin D of less than 8 nanograms per milliliter (ng/mL). A deficiency as defined as less than 20 ng/mL.  Suboptimal was less than 30 ng/mL.

The team of researchers also found that there was no association between the seasons of the year and vitamin D deficiency

"These data underscore the fact that breast-fed infants should be supplemented with vitamin D," study author Dr. Catherine Gordon, director of the bone health program at Children's Hospital in Boston tells U.S. News & World Report.  

Breast feeding mothers are encouraged to supplement as well.

Why is the vitamin important?  Vitamin D helps the body absorb calcium, so it is essential for strong bones and the prevention of osteoporosis.

In girls, the bone she builds for a lifetime is achieved by age 18, in boys, by age 20. Through x-rays, Dr. Gordon found evidence of low bone density among children who were deficient, a possible indicator of long-term problems.

And the vitamin is essential to the immune system. Low levels may make a person susceptible to autoimmune disease, type 1 diabetes, multiple sclerosis, cancers, and in reducing inflammation. 

Vitamin D supplement milk is one way to boost numbers as is a multivitamin containing vitamin D.    Exposure to sunshine for a short period without sunscreen on large parts of the body can help, but you are advised not to overdo it because of the risk of skin cancer. 

200 to 400 IU are a suggest minimum daily dose for children and teens, though for adults with risk factors for osteoporosis recommendations are 800 IU daily or higher. Some suggest doubling that dose.

Remember the cod liver oil treatment for all? It turns out not to be such bad advice. One tablespoon of cod liver oil is 1,360 IU of vitamin D per serving. 

Among foods- salmon, tuna and mackerel and fish liver oils are among the best sources according to the National Institutes of Health, Office of Dietary Supplements.

The National Institutes of Health says the UV energy above 42 degrees north latitude (a line approximately between the northern border of California and Boston) is insufficient for cutaneous (skin) vitamin D synthesis from November through February and may last up to six months in the extreme northern latitudes.

By comparison, latitudes below 34 degrees which roughly stretches between Los Angeles and Columbia, South Carolina and south, allow for skin production of vitamin D throughout the year.  # 

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