"Low vitamin D levels in U.S. adolescents are strongly associated with hypertension and hyperglycemia and metabolic syndrome, which can lead to type 2 diabetes," Heller said. "Parents must be informed of the need for vitamin D in children and the consequences of low vitamin D levels.
"Vitamin D is not in many foods," she said. "Foods fortified with vitamin D include ready-to-eat cereals, milk and some yogurts. Vitamin D is naturally found in fish such as salmon."
For the study, published online March 29 in Pediatrics, a research team led by Dr. Conrad R. Cole, an assistant professor of pediatrics at Emory University in Atlanta, looked at vitamin D levels in 290 Hispanic and black children from mainly low-income families in the metropolitan Atlanta area. The children averaged 2½ years old.
Earlier studies have found low vitamin D levels among children in northern climes, and the researchers wrote that they wanted to see whether the condition existed among children in the sunnier southern U.S. as well.
They found that about 22 percent of the children had low levels of vitamin D3, 74 percent had less-than-optimal levels of 25-hydroxyvitamin D and about 1 percent had low levels of calcium.
The greatest vitamin D deficiency was among black children, with 26 percent affected, compared with 18 percent of Hispanic children, the researchers noted.
Age was also a factor in vitamin D deficiency, Cole's group found, with older children less likely to have vitamin D deficiency. In addition, children who enrolled in the study in the spring and summer were also less likely to be vitamin D deficient, reducing the problem by about 20 percent.
More Hispanic than black children drank milk fortified with vitamin D, which provided 62 percent of the children's vitamin D intake, the study found.
"Children with suboptimal vitamin D status are at increased risk for bone disease, infectio
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