Low Vitamin D in Kids May Increase Diabetes Risk
Fish and fish oil, eggs, and fortified dairy and soy products are among the best sources of dietary vitamin D. You might also want to consider a supplement.
Low vitamin D
levels have been linked to an array of health problems including back pain, depression, cardiovascular disease, autoimmune diseases, some cancers, and diabetes. A new study, finding that obese children have lower vitamin D levels than non-obese children, also found that low vitamin D status was associated with other risk factors for diabetes
in obese children.
Correlating obesity with low vitamin D levels
The study, published in the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism, included 411 obese children and 87 normal weight children. The children's blood levels of vitamin D were tested to determine status and blood was also tested to assess their ability to control blood sugar levels. They and their parents also answered questions about their dietary habits.
Several important associations were seen in the results:
- Obese children were nearly four times more likely to have vitamin D deficiency and six times more likely to have vitamin D insufficiency (mild deficiency) than their normal weight counterparts.
- Skipping breakfast and drinking lots of soda and juice were strongly correlated with low vitamin D status.
- Obese children who were vitamin D insufficient or deficient were more likely to have markers of insulin resistance and poor blood sugar control--risk factors for diabetes--than those with adequate vitamin D.
Low vitamin D might be a predictor for future diabetes
"As the number of obese children increases, pediatric providers must be aware of the higher rates of vitamin D deficiency seen in obese versus non-overweight children," the study's authors said. They further noted that their findings suggest that low vitamin D levels may play a role in the development of insulin resistance and diabetes.
Helping children stay healthy
Parents can help their children avoid obesity and prevent diabetes by encouraging healthy habits. Here are some practical steps, based on the results from this and previous studies, to promote good health in kids:
- Give them breakfast. Whole grain hot or cold cereals with real fruit and a few nuts or seeds would get them off on the right foot.
- Include vitamin D-rich foods. Fish and fish oil, eggs, and fortified dairy and soy products are among the best sources of dietary vitamin D. You might also want to consider a supplement, especially if your child is overweight.
- Make water appealing. Sodas and juices are high in calories and sugar, but aren't as filling as food. Giving your child a personal stainless steel water bottle with fun designs can help them choose water instead.
- Turn off the TV and turn them loose outside. Setting firm limits on screen time will give your child more time for physical activity, and, if they play outside, they have a better chance of getting the sunshine they need to make enough vitamin D.
- Be a good role model. Eat a healthy diet and make time to exercise. Demonstrating healthy habits is the best way to develop them in your kids.
(J Clin Endocrinol Metab 2012;97:online publication)
Maureen Williams, ND, completed her doctorate in naturopathic medicine at Bastyr University in Seattle and has been in private practice since 1995. With an abiding commitment to access to care, she has worked in free clinics in the US and Canada, and in rural clinics in Guatemala and Honduras where she has studied traditional herbal medicine. She currently lives and practices in Victoria, BC, and lectures and writes extensively for both professional and community audiences on topics including family nutrition, menopause, anxiety and depression, heart disease, cancer, and easing stress. Dr. Williams is a regular contributor to Healthnotes Newswire.