New Study: Only 10 Percent of Kids at Risk for Low Vitamin D Levels

A new Loyola University Chicago Stritch School of Medicine study reveals that the estimated number of children who are thought to have low levels of vitamin D is significantly fewer than what previous studies indicated. New Institute of Medicine guidelines state that people get enough vitamin D if their blood levels are at or above 20 nanograms per milliliter, whereas previously it was thought to be 30 nanograms per milliliter. With these new guidelines, Loyola researchers found the percentage of kids at risk for vitamin D deficiencies to be 10 percent. More from LoyolaMedicine.org:

Loyola researchers studied vitamin D data from a nationally representative sample of 2,877 U.S. children and adolescents ages 6 to 18 who participated in the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey.

The study found that under the Institute of Medicine guidelines, 10.3 percent of children ages 6 to 18 are at risk of inadequate or deficient vitamin D levels. (This translates to an estimated 5.5 million children.)

By comparison, a 2009 study in the journal Pediatrics, which defined sufficient vitamin D levels as greater than 30 ng/mL, found that an estimated 70 percent of people ages 1 to 21 had deficient or insufficient vitamin D levels.

Under previous guidelines, millions of children who had vitamin D levels between 20 and 30 ng/mL would have needed supplementation. Under the Institute of Medicine guidelines, children in this range no longer need to take vitamin D supplements.

The Institute of Medicine’s new vitamin D guidelines are based on nearly 1,000 published studies and testimony from scientists and other experts. The IOM found that vitamin D is essential to avoid poor bone health, such as rickets. But there have been conflicting and mixed results in studies on whether vitamin D can also protect against cancer, heart disease, autoimmune diseases and diabetes. Moreover, excessive vitamin D can damage the kidneys and heart, the IOM found.

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