New research suggests nearly 70 percent of children in the U.S. have low levels of vitamin D, which may put them at risk for bone and heart problems later in life.
In the study, scientists from Albert Einstein College of Medicine of Yeshiva analyzed more than 6,000 children under the age of 21 and found that 9 percent of them — some 7.6 million children — did not have sufficient levels of vitamin D.
The situation was particularly widespread in older children, while other risk factors included gender (female) ethnicity (African-American and Mexican-American), obesity and lifestyle (defined as the amount of time spent outdoors).
Lead author Dr. Juhi Kumar, a fellow in pediatrics at Children’s Hospital at Montefiore Medical Center, said that while the findings of deficiency were not entirely unexpected, its magnitude was "shocking."
Low levels of vitamin D have been linked in scores of recent studies with poor bone health, higher blood pressure and lower HDL cholesterol levels. Hence the researchers recommend that high-risk children should be routinely screened for vitamin D deficiency.
They also say supplementation and inclusion of vitamin D-fortified foods in the diet should be considered for all children.
The study appeared earlier this month in the online edition of the journal Pediatrics.