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Children need more vitamin D, researchers say

October 26, 2009 |  6:25 pm

Sunshine Like adults, children require vitamin D -- it's one of those often-ignored fundamentals. But how much? The vitamin is crucial for, among other things, bone development, so no one wants to skimp. But not many experts want to go overboard either. 

Doctors and researchers don't all agree on the proper amount kids should get, but some seem fairly certain that many aren't getting enough.

Using the National Health and Nutrition Survey, researchers at Children's Hospital Boston and elsewhere analyzed blood levels of vitamin D in about 5,000 children  -- ages 1 to 11 -- from 2001 through 2006.

About 20% of kids had levels lower than those recommended by the American Academy of Pediatrics -- 50 nanomoles per liter of blood (or 20 nanograms per milliliter). A dramatically higher percentage of kids had levels lower than the 75 nmol/L recommended by some researchers.

The problem was especially pronounced among Hispanic and black children. People with darker skin don't synthesize the vitamin as easily as those with lighter skin.

Ultimately, the researchers come down in favor of vitamin D supplements for all children. But they concede that we need more information to better understand the health ramifications of low levels of vitamin D -- and just how much supplementation should be taking place.

The research was published today in the journal Pediatrics.

Here's ...

- the abstract,

- the news release from Children's Hospital Boston,

- the American Academy of Pediatrics guidelines on vitamin D levels (revised last year),

- and a recent Los Angeles Times article about the potential health effects of the vitamin. That story, "It may be vitamin D's day in the sun," notes: "Long considered just a supplement consumed with calcium for bone health, this humble vitamin may have untapped potential in fighting or preventing disease, suggests an explosion of new research. Not only has it shown promise in reducing the risk of, among other things, diabetes, pancreatic cancer, breast cancer and cardiovascular disease, but it also seems to improve infertility, weight control and memory."

Want to know more? Here's ...

- the upshot on vitamin D, from the Office of Dietary Supplements, including what foods naturally contain it (very few) and how the body makes it (using sunlight),

information from Medline Plus on the blood test for vitamin D or, more specifically, 25-hydroxyvitamin D,

- and the strength of evidence it has for treating various conditions, courtesy the National Institutes of Health.  Rickets, you've likely heard of. Other potential targets may come as a surprise.

-- Tami Dennis

Photo: Sunshine -- it's not all bad. The trick is to get enough vitamin D, without increasing the risk of skin cancer.

Credit: Los Angeles Times

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Comments (4)

I find it most disturbing that current medical and lay literature sources are bursting at the seams with convincing evidence of the far-reaching benefits of the hormone we call vitamin D, and yet the FDA and NIH have not updated their recommendations for daily vitamin D supplements since the one they published in 1997. That recommendation was for 200, 400, or 600 i.u. daily, depending on one's age.

In fact, the NIH held a conference of experts in August of this past summer, but won't share the decisions made at that meeting until next spring. In the meanwhile, an uninformed public will likely pay the consequences of their "thumb-twiddling".

After a good bit of study on this topic during the past 2 years, it's my opinion that an adult should receive a MINIMUM of 2000 i.u. vitamin D daily, and 4000 to 5000 i.u. is probably closer to their real need for optimal health outcomes.

Kids aren't getting their Vitamin D from balanced meals and playing outside in the sunshine. They're mostly inside playing video games and eating fast food their parents bring home.

Good point Cindy. They need to go outside and eat healthier foods but they are only going to do what their parents allow. For some odd apathetic reason parents think its better to shove them in front of the idiot box with games instead of outside with actual human beings. All this "I am tired after working" excuse gets old because they still manage to watch some insipid show instead of spending 20 minutes with their kids over a healthy dinner.

I guess cooking for 15-20 minutes is too hard for them yet they can spend twice that time driving and waiting in line for a fast food disaster. There are endless lists of recipes online that have short cook times and are full of vital minerals and vitamins at a lesser price than fast food. FitTv.com and Discovery.com are good sources.

There is some interesting data suggesting that keeping your vitamin D level optimal will prevent colds, flu and in particular H1N1 (swine Flu). The Canadians are taking the data very seriously and starting studies to see if Vitamin D can prevent Flu
Here are links to two interesting articles:

August 2009-Vitamin D3 deficiency and its role in influenza
http://archive.constantcontact.com/fs026/1102452079631/archive/1102685428884.html
Sept 2009-More on Vitamin D3 and influenza
http://archive.constantcontact.com/fs026/1102452079631/archive/1102728693089.html

If these links don’t work you can go to www.vitaminD3world.com and click on ‘In the news” to find the articles.



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