An article in the June issue of The Archives of Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicine, suggests that vitamin D deficiency is an unrecognized and common health problem among teenagers, young adults and the elderly. And a particular problem among African-American youngsters.
A team, including Catherine Gordon, from the Children's Hospital Boston investigated the prevalence of vitamin D deficiency among 307 healthy adolescents from the ages of 11 to 18. Between 1 July 2001 and 30 June 2003 the youngsters underwent a blood test and nutrition and activity assessments.
The researchers found that 74 patients (24.1 percent) were vitamin D deficient, and of these 14 (4.6 percent) were severely vitamin D deficient.Using a broader definition of vitamin D deficiency, 129 patients (42 percent) were vitamin D insufficient.
The researchers also found that season, ethnicity, milk and juice consumption, body mass index and physical activity were significant predictors indicating a lack of vitamin D.
"Vitamin D deficiency was present in many US adolescents in this urban clinic-based sample," the group concluded. "However, the prevalence was highest in African American teenagers and during the winter."
According to the group, vitamin D is crucial for calcium absorption and bone growth during childhood and adolescence. Other research carried out recently has suggsted that vitamin D may help to protect against the onset of diabetes and colon cancer.
A study released in January found that women who take vitamin D supplements through multivitamins are 40 per cent less likely to develop multiple sclerosis (MS) than women who do not take supplements and professor. And research by the pediatrics professor Dr Gordon Klein from the Univeristy of Texas has demonstrated that children with severe burns have a diminished capacity to make vitamin D and should therefore receive vitamin D supplements to stop their bones from weakening.
Vitamin D, known as the 'sunshine vitamin', is made by the skin through exposure to sunlight.