Vitamin D – More important than we may have thought

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By Caroline Burkholder

Vitamin D has been the focus of several scientifically prominent studies across the world due to its newfound association with childhood obesity. Children with low blood levels of vitamin D tend to have higher BMIs, higher body adiposity, and tend to experience faster weight gain compared to children with vitamin D levels within recommended range. Furthermore, health professionals have criticized the federal vitamin D standards as being too low to sustain optimal health. Vitamin D can be difficult to attain solely from food, even when adhering to a diet rich in dairy products and other vitamin D rich foods. Previously, many health professionals assumed that sun exposure would compensate for the low-availability of vitamin D from dietary sources. However, even the results of studies conducted in subtropical regions, including Costa Rica, Colombia, and Brazil, have demonstrated that a large percentage of the population have suboptimal serum vitamin D levels, despite the regions’ bountiful sun exposure.

There has been evidence that low vitamin D levels in adults are linked to cardiovascular disease, but this relationship had not been explored in children until recently. Researchers in Toronto examined vitamin D levels in children aged 1-5 and its association with non-HDL cholesterol. They found a statistically significant association between higher levels of vitamin D and lower non-HDL cholesterol, suggesting cardiovascular disease risk factors may appear at an early age. Similarly, another study conducted in the Middle East found that vitamin D levels in Arab children are significantly associated with lower HDL-C and higher body adiposity indices.

These findings suggest potential opportunities for early intervention to prevent cardiovascular disease and to combat childhood obesity by assessing vitamin D status in early childhood and supplementing when necessary.

 

References:

Al-Daghri N, Sabico S, Alokail M, et al. Calculated adiposity and lipid indices in healthy Arab children as influenced by vitamin D status. Journal Of Clinical Lipidology [serial online]. July 1, 2016;10:775-781. Available from: ScienceDirect, Ipswich, MA. Accessed September 29, 2016.

 

University of Michigan. “Low blood levels of vitamin D linked to chubbier kids, faster weight gain.” ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 8 November 2010. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/11/101108161228.htm>.

 

St. Michael’s Hospital. Does heart disease begin in childhood? ‘Statistically significant association’ found between vitamin D levels, non-HDL cholesterol in kids. ScienceDaily. July 15, 2015. Available from: www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2015/07/150715155323.htm. Accessed September 30, 2015

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