Majority of American Children Not Getting Enough Vitamin D, Even in Summer

The majority of American children are not getting sufficient vitamin D from sun exposure, even in summer months, says a new analysis from leading researchers.

According to findings published in Environmental Health Perspectives, only children with type II skin (Caucasian) living in the northern US actually achieved the minimum daily dose of vitamin D and this only occurred in the summer months if they did not wear sunscreen.
The statistics were increased for children with all skin types living in the southern US in summer, but only children with the fairer skin achieved the minimum daily dose in spring.

“Our estimates suggest that many children may not get enough sun exposure to meet their minimum daily vitamin D requirements,” concluded researchers led by Dianne Godar, PhD, from the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

“However, additional research is needed to confirm our estimates, and improve our understanding of the net benefits and risks of sun exposure to children’s health.”

Our bodies do manufacture vitamin D but the UV index must be 3 or higher, which doesn’t happen very often in most northern states during the long winter months.  Plus, sun exposure must be during the middle of the day and with no sunscreen on.  Dietary supplements and fortified foods may be the best way ensure adequate intakes of vitamin D.

New analysis
The researchers calculated average vitamin D production from sun exposure according to gender, age, skin type, clothing and the season for children living in the northern (45°N) and southern (35°N) US.

“Our estimates suggest that American children may not be getting adequate outdoor UVB exposures to satisfy their vitamin D3 needs all year, except some Caucasians during the summer if they do not diligently wear sunscreens except during beach vacations,” wrote Dr Godar and her co-workers.

The results challenge conclusions by the American Academy of Dermatology, which states that people will still make “ample” vitamin D3 (at least 1,000 IU/day) because they get plenty of “casual” (everyday) exposure to UV outside.

Vitamin D Supplements
The data clearly shows the importance of vitamin D supplements and fortified foods. Earlier this year, renowned vitamin D researcher, Michael Holick PhD, MD, Professor of Medicine at Boston University Medical Center and coauthor on the new analysis, says that the most realistic approach to boosting the nation’s intake of vitamin D is for food manufacturers to increase the dose of vitamin D per serving.

A great way to ensure your child gets enough vitamin D every day is by giving them an easy to swallow liquid vitamin D supplement.  Ask your child’s doctor what the appropriate dosage should be. 

The effects of deficiency
Vitamin D deficiency in adults is reported to precipitate or exacerbate osteopenia, osteoporosis, muscle weakness, fractures, common cancers, autoimmune diseases, infectious diseases and cardiovascular diseases. There is also some evidence that the vitamin may reduce the incidence of several types of cancer and type-1 diabetes.  Lack of vitamin D in children has shown up with an increase in cases of rickets, a disorder leading to softening and weakening of the bones.  There has also been some links to increased asthma and allergies in children who have low levels of vitamin D.

Source: Environmental Health Perspectives
Published online ahead of print, doi:10.1289/ehp.1003195
“Solar UV Doses of Young Americans and Vitamin D3 Production”
Authors: D.E. Godar, S.J. Pope, W. Burgess Grant, M.F. Holick