Thursday, August 6, 2009

Millions of American Children Are Vitamin D Deficient

It’s called the sunshine vitamin because given a sufficient amount of sunlight the human body manufactures vitamin D, which has long been known to be essential to bone and muscle health by aiding calcium absorption in the intestines and the production of enzymes involved in collagen formation in the bones. But more recent research has found receptors for vitamin D in almost every organ and tissue system in the body, suggesting that deficiencies may affect many types of cell functions and increase the risk of not only osteoporosis but many other diseases. Ten to fifteen minutes of sunshine 3 times a week is enough to produce the body’s requirement of this cheery nutrient, but apparently that is easier said than done—even for the nation’s youngsters.

Two new studies designed to assess the possible effects of low vitamin D levels on cardiovascular risk factors in young Americans uncovered some very disturbing facts. For example, one analysis showed that overall 7 out of 10 American children are not getting the vitamin D they need. About 7.6 million (9 percent) children, adolescents and young adults aged 1 through 21 are vitamin D deficient, with blood levels under 15 nanograms per milliliter. An additional 50.8 million (61 percent) have slightly higher levels, at between 15 and 29 nanograms per milliliter, but still low enough to be insufficient. “It’s astounding,” said the study’s lead, Dr. Michal L. Melamed of the Albert Einstein College of Medicine in New York. “At first, we couldn’t believe the numbers. I think it’s very worrisome.”

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