vitamin D, vitamin D deficiency, vitamin D and kids, vitamin D
and sunlight

New Vitamin D Study Calls for Lifestyle Changes

August 04, 2009 05:00 PM
by Sarah Amandolare
A nationwide study found low vitamin D levels in a majority of American children. Thankfully, there are simple ways for kids to get more of this essential nutrient.

First Nationwide Study Showing Vitamin D Deficiency

Nearly 70 percent of children in the United States have a heightened risk for heart and bone disease due to low vitamin D levels, according to the findings of a nationwide study led by Dr. Michal L. Melamed of the Albert Einstein College of Medicine of Yeshiva University. LiveScience reports that rickets, an infant bone disease resulting from a lack of vitamin D, has also been on the rise.

This is the first time that such a large segment of children has been tested for vitamin D deficiency; other studies have uncovered the problem only in "specific populations of children," Melamed told LiveScience. Dr. Juhi Kumar of the Children's Hospital at Montefiore Medical Center, said that "the magnitude of the problem nationwide was shocking."

Fortunately, there are simple ways to improve vitamin D levels. Although consuming vitamin D-rich foods like fish and milk is helpful, Melamed says supplements are still necessary. Only 4 percent of children in the study used supplements, however, despite the American Academy of Pediatrics guidelines recommending 400 IU daily for infants, children and teens, LiveScience reported.

Just 10 minutes of daily sunshine can significantly boost vitamin D levels in children, but only when they're not wearing sunscreen. For sunburn-prone children, this approach can be problematic. Nancy Shute of U.S. News & World Report explains that her daughter is extremely sensitive to the sun, so vitamin D-fortified milk and orange juice, along with a supplement, serve as a substitute.

Lack of Vitamin D Linked to Multiple Myeloma

In July, the American Journal of Hematology published a report by Mayo Clinic researchers, which found that "Vitamin D deficiency may predict a poorer outcome in patients with newly diagnosed multiple myeloma." The report was covered by Reuters Health in an article republished on Cure Today. Researchers found that "the proportion of patients with vitamin D deficiency increased as the stage of multiple myeloma worsened," but said "larger population-based studies" are still needed.

Background: Vitamin D and dietary supplements

In March, studies detecting Vitamin D deficiencies in teens and adults suggested potentially serious health risks. Skin cancer prevention campaigns were thought partially to blame for the increased use of sunscreen that can cut the skin's vitamin D production.

Although taking a vitamin D supplement might seem to be an easy solution, questions have been raised as to the overuse of dietary supplements. Long-term benefits and safety of supplement use remain ambiguous, yet many people continue to swear by them, and increasing numbers of people are taking them.

Related Topic: Tanning beds and cancer

Tanning beds are now considered a definitive cause of cancer along with cigarettes and hepatitis B, according to a study by scientists at the International Agency for Research on Cancer. Previously, tanning beds and UVA radiation were classified as "probable carcinogens." Studies showing a 75 percent increase in skin cancer risk with young adults' use of tanning beds resulted in the new classification as definite carcinogen.

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