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Vitamin D Deficiency Puts 40% of U.S. Infants and Toddlers At Risk
Date:6/3/2008

About 12 percent already are deficient, study finds,,,,

TUESDAY, June 3 (HealthDay News) -- At least 40 percent of American infants and toddlers aren't getting enough vitamin D, according to researchers from Children's Hospital in Boston.

Twelve percent of the youngest children in the United States are already deficient in vitamin D, and another 28 percent are at risk for vitamin D deficiency, according to the study, which appears in the June issue of the Archives of Pediatrics and Adolescent Medicine.

Because human breast milk lacks sufficient vitamin D, the number of babies in the research sample being breast-fed were important to the findings.

"These data underscore the fact that breast-fed infants should be supplemented with vitamin D," said study author Dr. Catherine Gordon, director of the bone health program at Children's Hospital in Boston. She added that mothers who are breast-feeding often need vitamin D supplements as well.

Breast-feeding is a known risk factor for low vitamin D levels in infants, which is why many pediatricians routinely recommend vitamin D supplementation for breast-fed infants. Other factors that may contribute to low levels of vitamin D include not drinking enough vitamin D-fortified milk (for toddlers), staying out of the sun or using sunscreen.

Vitamin D, also known as the sunshine vitamin, is produced naturally when the body reacts to sunlight. However, the use of sunscreen and advice to stay out of the sun -- which is important for preventing skin cancer -- may also be reducing levels of vitamin D in people. Few foods naturally contain vitamin D, which is essential for strong bones because it helps the body absorb calcium.

In addition to helping maintain bone health, Gordon said that vitamin D also appears to play a role in maintaining the immune system and that people with low levels of vitamin D may be more susceptible to autoimmune dise
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