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Minority Kids Lack Enough Vitamin D
Date:3/29/2010

Low levels can lead to serious health problems, experts say

MONDAY, March 29 (HealthDay News) -- Vitamin D deficiency is a common health problem around the world, experts say, and the problem may be especially severe in the United States among poor black and Hispanic children, researchers report.

In fact, about 74 percent of these children had less than optimal vitamin D levels, the study found.

"This is one of many studies pointing to the critical need for both children and adults to take supplemental vitamin D," said Samantha Heller, a dietitian, nutritionist and exercise physiologist from Connecticut who was not involved in the study. "Recent research has demonstrated that vitamin D deficiency is common in children and adolescents in the U.S."

The study "highlights the need for special attention to be paid to low-income children and minorities," she said. "Their vitamin D levels need to be checked regularly."

"All in all, it would seem reasonable -- in fact, urgent -- to recommend vitamin D supplementation for children," Heller said.

Another expert agreed.

Dr. Michael Holick, professor of medicine, physiology and biophysics and director of the General Clinical Research Center at Boston University Medical Center called the findings, "no surprise at all."

Holick noted that across the United States, up to 70 percent of children aren't getting enough vitamin D.

"African American and Hispanic children are at especially high risk," he said, because darker skin acts like a natural sunscreen. The ability to make vitamin D is reduced from 80 to 99 percent in darker skin, Holick said.

Vitamin D is essential for bone growth and other important metabolic functions, and she said that low levels in children can lead to health problems, including later in life. Experts currently recommend intakes of between 200 to 400 international units (IU) per day of vitamin D.
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