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Children's Health

Low Vitamin D More Common in Overweight Kids

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Go Outside and Play

Turer says overweight, vitamin-D-deficient children should walk away from the television or computer screen and go outside and move around. That's because the sun is one of the main sources of vitamin D.

It's not known whether children get as much vitamin D from the sun as adults, she says. Turer suggests that children should get 10 or 15 minutes of sun before putting on sunblock.

Parents who think their child might be deficient in vitamin D should talk to their doctor before giving them supplements that are available without a prescription, Turer says. "There are risks from taking too much vitamin D."

Checking the blood level of vitamin D costs about $100.Turer says more research is needed to determine whether routine screening is cost-effective and whether treating deficiencies reduces the risk of fractures and other related health problems.

Earlier Research on Vitamin D

Recent, smaller studies of children in Somerville, Mass., and Charleston, W.Va., reached similar conclusions.

Tufts researchers evaluated 145 fourth- through eighth-graders. More than 83% of the children were found to be vitamin D deficient. Researcher Lauren Au, RD, says that high levels of vitamin D deficiency may be partly explained by the fact that more than half of them were overweight or obese. Also, Au says, their Vitamin D levels were checked during the winter, when sun exposure is lower.

In another small study, Stephen Sondike, MD, an adolescent medicine specialist at West Virginia University, compared vitamin D levels in 76 patients aged 2 to 18. The patients had a diagnosis of obesity, chronic kidney disease, diabetes, high blood pressure, or cystic fibrosis. Only obesity was associated with vitamin D deficiency.

Sondike, medical director of the Disordered Eating Center of Charleston, says he routinely checks the vitamin D levels of overweight and obese patients. The notion that such children are malnourished might seem counterintuitive, he says, but "their diet is heavy in calories and not heavy in nutrients."

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