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Lack of Vitamin D in Children “SHOCKING”

September 8, 2009

BANGOR (Aug 4): Lack of Vitamin D in Children “SHOCKING”

Mon Aug 3, 9:26 am ET from Yahoo! News

About 70 percent of U.S. children have low levels of vitamin D, which puts them at higher risk for bone and heart disease, researchers said today.

“We expected the prevalence of vitamin D deficiency would be high, but the magnitude of the problem nationwide was shocking,” said Dr. Juhi Kumar of Children’s Hospital at Montefiore Medical Center.

Cases of rickets, a bone disease in infants caused by low vitamin D levels, have also been increasing, other research shows. The new finding, from a nationwide study, adds to growing evidence that children as well as many adults also lack vitamin D (which is actually a hormone).

“Several small studies had found a high prevalence of vitamin D deficiency in specific populations of children, but no one had examined this issue nationwide,” said study leader Dr. Michal L. Melamed of the Albert Einstein College of Medicine of Yeshiva University.

The cause? Poor diet and lack of sunshine, the researchers conclude today in the online version of the journal Pediatrics. Millions of children The researchers analyzed data on more than 6,000 children, ages 1 to 21, collected by the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey 2001-2004.

The researchers found that 9 percent, or 7.6 million children across the country, were vitamin D deficient and another 61 percent, or 50.8 million, were vitamin D insufficient. Low levels were especially common in girls, African-Americans, Mexican-Americans, the obese, those who drank milk less than once a week, and those who spent more than four hours a day watching TV, playing videogames, or using computers.The deficiency was more common among the older children in the data set, too. Lighter skin is more efficient at producing vitamin D. So darker-skinned people produce less when exposed to sunlight.

The decline in vitamin D levels in the United States was reported widely a year ago and has been underway for 20 years, Melamed said. “Kids have more sedentary lifestyles today and are not spending as much time outdoors,” Melamed said. “The widespread use of sunscreens, which block UV-B rays, has only compounded the problem.”

The body uses UV-B sunlight to convert a form of cholesterol in the skin into vitamin D.

What to do

Go to the Vitamin D Council to learn more.

The high rate of natural production of vitamin D3 cholecalciferol (pronounced koh·luh·kal·sif·uh·rawl) in the skin is the single most important fact every person should know about vitamin D—a fact that has profound implications for the natural human condition.

Technically not a “vitamin,” vitamin D is in a class by itself. Its metabolic product, calcitriol, is actually a secosteroid hormone that targets over 2000 genes (about 10% of the human genome) in the human body. Current research has implicated vitamin D deficiency as a major factor in the pathology of at least 17 varieties of cancer as well as heart disease, stroke, hypertension, autoimmune diseases, diabetes, depression, chronic pain, osteoarthritis, osteoporosis, muscle weakness, muscle wasting, birth defects, periodontal disease, and more.

Vitamin D’s influence on key biological functions vital to one’s health and well-being mandates that vitamin D no longer be ignored by the health care industry nor by individuals striving to achieve and maintain a greater state of health.

Sunshine and Your Health

If well adults and adolescents regularly avoid sunlight exposure, research indicates a necessity to supplement with at least 5,000 units (IU) of vitamin D daily. To obtain this amount from milk one would need to consume 50 glasses. With a multivitamin more than 10 tablets would be necessary. Neither is advisable.

The skin produces approximately 10,000 IU vitamin D in response 20–30 minutes summer sun exposure—50 times more than the US government’s recommendation of 200 IU per day!

How To Get Enough Vitamin D

There are 3 ways for adults to insure adequate levels of vitamin D:

  • regularly receive midday sun exposure in the late spring, summer, and early fall, exposing as much of the skin as possible.
  • regularly use a sun bed (avoiding sunburn) during the colder months.
  • take 5,000 IU per day for three months, then obtain a 25-hydroxyvitamin D test. Adjust your dosage so that blood levels are between 50–80 ng/mL (or 125–200 nM/L) year-round.
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