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Dr. Gregory Pais, ND
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March 3 2009 Pediatrics
Many teenagers today, especially black teens, aren't getting enough vitamin D. This is the conclusion of researchers from Weill Cornell Medical College in New York City. Vitamin D deficiency has been linked to many chronic diseases, including breast cancer, heart disease, diabetes, prostate cancer, colon cancer, osteoporosis, and others.

"There is evidence that the levels of vitamin D we have been using in the past may have been too low," said lead researcher Dr. Sandy Saintonge, a fellow in general preventive medicine at Weill Cornell.
Vitamin D is measured by blood levels of 25-hydroxyvitamin D. Several factors can interfere with the amount of vitamin D the body produces, including diet, sun exposure, use of sunscreens, skin color, and possibly statin drugs. Blacks take in less of the sun's rays than whites, causing less vitamin D production, Saintonge noted.

For the study, Saintonge and her colleagues collected data on 2,955 youths, 12 to 19 years old, who participated in the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey III. The researchers looked specifically at their levels of vitamin D. Using the latest recommended level of vitamin D, the researchers found that, overall, 14% of adolescents in the study were vitamin D deficient. However, black teens were 20 times more likely to be vitamin D deficient than white teens. Vitamin D deficiency among girls was more than double that of boys. In addition, twice as many obese teens were vitamin D deficient as normal-weight teens, Saintonge said. She noted that more recent data puts the prevalence of vitamin D deficiency among teens at 40-50%.

Skin color, the prevalence of obesity and diet among black teens combine to make them more likely to be vitamin D deficient, Saintonge said. "It's a multi-factorial problem," she said. Saintonge recommends that teens have their vitamin D level monitored during regular physical examinations to be sure they are getting enough of the nutrient.

Dr. Michael F. Holick, director of the Vitamin D Laboratory at Boston University, said, "We know the more skin pigment you have, the less efficient is your ability to make vitamin D in your skin." "That's why most African-Americans in the United States are vitamin D deficient."

One thing to realize is that the study's conclusions are based on the outdated reference of what low Vitamin D is. If you were to use the currently accepted reference of 50-80 ng/ml for Vitamin D, the number of teens low in Vit. D greatly increases.


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