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Vitamin D Deficiency Seen as New Epidemic Among Adolescents

Sacramento CA, 7 April 2004
Source: Dairy Council of California

Less exposure to direct sunlight and the switch from drinking milk to soda has brought back a health epidemic not seen in this country in 70 years—vitamin D deficiency. It is estimated that 30 percent of adolescents nationwide may be vitamin D deficient, putting them at risk for fractures, stunted growth and debilitating osteoporosis later in life. Changes in lifestyle have led to this emerging problem.

"Children choosing to stay indoors to play with computers, the increasing use of sunscreen outdoors and a decrease in milk consumption are largely to blame," said Michael Holick, PhD, MD, professor of medicine, physiology and biophysics at Boston University. "Children developing a vitamin D deficiency now can potentially face many problems as an adult."

According to Holick, a vitamin D deficiency can lead to Type 1 diabetes, multiple sclerosis, certain types of cancer and well-known effects on the bone such as rickets and osteomalacia, a softening on the bones in children and adults.

"To protect children from future problems, parents must be proactive and make sure their children get enough vitamin D to meet the body's nutrient requirements," said Holick. "Vitamin D-fortified milk and orange juice are both excellent ways to help combat and prevent this deficiency."

According to Lori Hoolihan, PhD, RD, nutrition research specialist at Dairy Council of California, milk is one of the best fortified food sources of vitamin D.

"One eight-ounce glass of vitamin D-fortified milk provides about one-half of the daily requirement for the nutrient for adults up to age 50. After this, the requirement doubles because the body is less able to make its own vitamin D," said Hoolihan.

Additional dietary sources for the nutrient include vitamin D-fortified cereals, grain bars and juices. Ways to include the nutrient in the daily diet:

  • Drink unflavored or flavored milk
  • Add milk to fortified cereals
  • Eat naturally fatty fishes such as salmon or mackerel
  • Eat pudding made with fortified milk

Known as the sunshine vitamin because the body naturally makes it when exposed to the sun, vitamin D is essential to optimal absorption of calcium, needed for bone deposition. Research shows vitamin D may also help reduce blood pressure in hypersensitive patients, improve blood glucose levels in diabetics and improve symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis.

Dairy Council of California has been providing nutrition information and education programs for 85 years. Available in both Spanish and English, Dairy Council's programs encourage healthy choices from all food groups and daily physical activity. For more information, visit www.dairycouncilofca.org, or www.mealsmatter.org for meal planning and recipe information.


Dairy Council of California (www.dairycouncilofca.org).end-of-story


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