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Study says 1 in 5 children lack vitamin D

Associated Press / October 26, 2009

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CHICAGO - At least 1 in 5 US children ages 1 to 11 don’t get enough vitamin D and could be at risk for a variety of health problems including weak bones, the most recent national analysis suggests.

By a looser measure, almost 90 percent of black children that age and 80 percent of Hispanic children could be vitamin D deficient - “astounding numbers’’ that should serve as a call to action, said Dr. Jonathan Mansbach, lead author of the new analysis and a researcher at Harvard Medical School and Children’s Hospital in Boston.

The analysis, released online today by the journal Pediatrics, is the first assessment of varying vitamin D levels in children in that age group.

The findings add to mounting evidence about vitamin D deficiency in children, teens, and adults - a concern because of recent studies suggesting that the vitamin might help prevent serious diseases, including infections, diabetes, and even some cancers.

Although hard evidence showing that low levels of vitamin D lead to disease or that high levels prevent it is lacking, it is a burgeoning area of research.

Exactly how much vitamin D children and adults should get, and defining when they are deficient, is under debate. Doctors use different definitions, and many are waiting for guidance expected in an Institute of Medicine report on vitamin D due next year. The institute is a government advisory group that sets dietary standards.

The analysis uses data from a 2001-06 government health survey of nearly 3,000 children. They had blood tests measuring vitamin D levels.

Using the American Academy of Pediatrics’ cutoff for healthy vitamin D levels, 6.4 million children - about 20 percent of youngsters that age - have blood levels that are too low. Applying a less strict, higher cutoff, two-thirds of children that age, including 90 percent of black kids children and 80 percent of Hispanics, are deficient in vitamin D.

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