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Vitamin D

Children at Risk From Current Low Vitamin D Recommendations

Monday, July 28, 2008 by: Sherry Baker, Health Sciences Editor
Tags: vitamin D, health news, Natural News

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(NewsTarget) Proponents of using nutrition, supplements and other natural means to obtain and keep optimum health have long warned that the FDA approved minimum daily allowance of some vitamins is woefully inadequate. Now new research backs up that idea when it comes to vitamin D in children.

In fact, according to a report set for July publication in The Endocrine Society's Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism (JCEM), children may need and safely take ten times the 200 International Units (IUs) of vitamin D currently recommended by the National Academy of Sciences' Institute of Medicine and the American Academy of Pediatrics. This fact could have long-term importance for youngsters because the new research reveals such an increase in vitamin D could improve the bone health of children worldwide -- and it may have other life-long health benefits, too.

"Our research reveals that vitamin D, at doses equivalent to 2,000 IUs a day, is not only safe for adolescents, but it is actually necessary for achieving desirable vitamin D levels," said Ghada El-Haff Fuleihan, M.D., of the American University of Beirut-Medical Center, Lebanon, lead author of the study, in a prepared statement for the press. "Supplementation of children and adolescents with 2,000 IUs a day of vitamin D3 is well tolerated and safe. This is particularly relevant in light of the increasingly recognized health benefits of vitamin D for adults and children."

Research is mounting that vitamin D may offer protection against certain cancers including cancers of the breast, colon, kidney, and ovaries. Studies have also linked vitamin D supplementation and/or adequate sun exposure (which causes the body to produce vitamin D) to increased life expectancy, a lowered risk of prostate cancer and multiple sclerosis, stronger bones and improved cardiovascular health in people with high blood pressure. A study by Richard B. Setlow, Ph.D., of Brookhaven National Laboratory, and colleagues published earlier this year in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences concluded: "These issues have health consequences far beyond those of cancer because a number of diseases are associated with inadequate vitamin D levels or low sun exposure: neurological, cardiovascular, metabolic, immune, and bone diseases," they said.

To help clarify just how much vitamin D children need, Fuleihan and his colleagues conducted both short and long-term studies to measure the safety of relatively high doses of vitamin D3 in kids between the ages of 10 and 17. Vitamin D3, one of the most common forms of vitamin D, is converted to the active form of vitamin D found in the blood, called 25-OHD (25-hydroxy vitamin). So, in this placebo-controlled study, the scientists gave their young research subjects varying doses of vitamin D at various intervals and then measured the impact this had on serum levels of 25-OHD.

For the shorter study, 25 students (15 boys and 10 girls) took 14,000 IU doses of vitamin D once a week for eight weeks and their levels of 25-OHD were measured for another eight weeks during the summer and early fall (when the highest natural levels of vitamin D are reached due to sun exposure). Another one year long study involved 340 students (172 boys and 168 girls) who received either a low dose of vitamin D (1,400 IUs each week) or a high dose (14,000 IUs each week).

The results? Only the children who received the equivalent of 2,000 IUs a day of vitamin D increased 25-OHD levels to those known to be optimal in adults. None of the children in either trial showed any evidence of harm or side effects from the vitamin D.

Exactly what the best vitamin D level for children and adolescents should be has not been pinpointed. However, due to rapid skeletal growth, the research by Fuleihan and his colleagues strongly suggests youngsters are more likely to need far more vitamin D than previously assumed -- and vitamin D at higher doses appears to be safe.

According to the National Institutes of Health, fish such as salmon, tuna, and mackerel and fish liver oils are among the best sources of the vitamin. Small amounts of vitamin D are also found in egg yolks, cheese and beef liver as well as some mushrooms. Fortified foods, especially milk, provide most of the vitamin D in the American diet. Another good way for youngsters to boost their vitamin D levels: Instead of staying indoors watching TV and playing video games, they should be encouraged to play outside and get adequate exposure to sunshine each day.

About the author

Sherry Baker is a widely published writer whose work has appeared in Newsweek, Health, the Atlanta Journal and Constitution, Yoga Journal, Optometry, Atlanta, Arthritis Today, Natural Healing Newsletter, OMNI, UCLA’s "Healthy Years" newsletter, Mount Sinai School of Medicine’s "Focus on Health Aging" newsletter, the Cleveland Clinic’s "Men’s Health Advisor" newsletter and many others.

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