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Return to Vitamin D Deficiency Prevalent in American Adolescents Overview

More on Vitamin D Deficiency Prevalent in American Adolescents

Vitamin D Deficiency Prevalent in American Adolescents

New York (Apr 15, 2009)

One in seven American adolescents is vitamin D deficient, according to a new study by researchers in the Department of Public Health at Weill Cornell Medical College. The scientists found that half of African-American teens are vitamin D deficient. Girls had more than twice the risk of deficiency compared with boys, and overweight teens had nearly double the risk of their normal-weight counterparts.

Risks of Vitamin D Deficiency

In children, vitamin D deficiency can interfere with bone mineralization, leading to rickets. With the increased risk of deficiency in girls, some of whom may become pregnant during adolescence, a lack of vitamin D may increase the maternal risk of preeclampsia and gestational diabetes and may be associated with reduced bone mineralization in their children. In adults, vitamin D deficiency is linked to cardiovascular disease, cancer, diabetes, immune dysfunction and hypertension.

The study applied a new definition of vitamin D deficiency that was recommended at the 13th Workshop Consensus for Vitamin D Nutritional Guidelines in 2007. Scientists there proposed that the minimum acceptable serum vitamin D level be raised from 11 nanograms per milliliter to at least 20 nanograms per millileter.

Meeting Vitamin D Requirements

To meet minimum nutritional requirements, teens need to consume at least four glasses of fortified low or non-fat milk daily or its dietary equivalent. Other foods rich in vitamin D include: salmon, tuna, eggs and fortified cereals.

"A vitamin supplement containing 400 IU of vitamin D is another alternative," said pediatrician Sandy Saintonge, MD. "We should also consider a national fortification strategy, perhaps including routine supplementation and monitoring of serum levels, but more research is needed to determine optimal vitamin D levels."

The Role of Weight

The researchers were particularly concerned about the role that weight plays in deficiency. "Because vitamin D is stored in body fat, simply increasing the dosage of vitamin D may not be effective in overweight adolescents," noted senior author Linda M. Gerber, PhD. "As the prevalence of childhood obesity increases, vitamin D deficiency may increase as well. In this group, appropriate nutrition could solve both problems."

The study findings were published in the March 2009 issue of the journal Pediatrics.

Faculty Contributing to this Article:

Sandy Saintonge, MD is an Assistant Professor of Clinical Pediatrics and Assistant Professor of Clinical Public Health at Weill Cornell Medical College.

Linda M. Gerber, PhD is a Professor of Public Health in the Division of Biostatistics and Epidemiology and Professor of Epidemiology in Medicine at Weill Cornell Medical College.

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