Friday, October 30, 2009

Study: One in five children lacks vitamin D

This is pretty surprising. This problem was beaten decades ago by adding vitamin D to butter and margarine. Is that no longer done?

At least 1 in 5 US children ages 1 to 11 don’t get enough vitamin D and could be at risk for a variety of health problems including weak bones, the most recent national analysis suggests.

By a looser measure, almost 90 percent of black children that age and 80 percent of Hispanic children could be vitamin D deficient - “astounding numbers’’ that should serve as a call to action, said Dr. Jonathan Mansbach, lead author of the new analysis and a researcher at Harvard Medical School and Children’s Hospital in Boston.

The analysis, released online today by the journal Pediatrics, is the first assessment of varying vitamin D levels in children in that age group. The findings add to mounting evidence about vitamin D deficiency in children, teens, and adults - a concern because of recent studies suggesting that the vitamin might help prevent serious diseases, including infections, diabetes, and even some cancers.

Although hard evidence showing that low levels of vitamin D lead to disease or that high levels prevent it is lacking, it is a burgeoning area of research.

Exactly how much vitamin D children and adults should get, and defining when they are deficient, is under debate. Doctors use different definitions, and many are waiting for guidance expected in an Institute of Medicine report on vitamin D due next year. The institute is a government advisory group that sets dietary standards.

The analysis uses data from a 2001-06 government health survey of nearly 3,000 children. They had blood tests measuring vitamin D levels. Using the American Academy of Pediatrics’ cutoff for healthy vitamin D levels, 6.4 million children - about 20 percent of youngsters that age - have blood levels that are too low. Applying a less strict, higher cutoff, two-thirds of children that age, including 90 percent of black kids children and 80 percent of Hispanics, are deficient in vitamin D.


Curry spice 'kills cancer cells'

It has also been claimed as a slimming agent

An extract found in the bright yellow curry spice turmeric can kill off cancer cells, scientists have shown. The chemical - curcumin - has long been thought to have healing powers and is already being tested as a treatment for arthritis and even dementia. Now tests by a team at the Cork Cancer Research Centre show it can destroy gullet cancer cells in the lab.

Cancer experts said the findings in the British Journal of Cancer could help doctors find new treatments. Dr Sharon McKenna and her team found that curcumin started to kill cancer cells within 24 hours. The cells also began to digest themselves, after the curcumin triggered lethal cell death signals. Dr McKenna said: "Scientists have known for a long time that natural compounds have the potential to treat faulty cells that have become cancerous and we suspected that curcumin might have therapeutic value."

Dr Lesley Walker, director of cancer information at Cancer Research UK, said: "This is interesting research which opens up the possibility that natural chemicals found in turmeric could be developed into new treatments for oesophageal cancer. "Rates of oesophageal cancer have gone up by more than a half since the 70s and this is thought to be linked to rising rates of obesity, alcohol intake and reflux disease so finding ways to prevent this disease is important too."

Each year around 7,800 people are diagnosed with oesophageal cancer in the UK. It is the sixth most common cause of cancer death and accounts for around five percent of all UK cancer deaths.



Anonymous said...

Not all butter is fortified with vitamin D in the USA. (The butter in my fridge, in fact, is not.)

That said, afaik, all milk is, indeed, fortified with vitamin D so I'm a bit puzzled by this result as well--do kids not drink milk anymore??

John A said...

"This problem was beaten decades ago by adding vitamin D to butter and margarine. Is that no longer done?"

Well... Yes and no. Most whole milk is "vitamin D added" but some two, one, or zero percent [fat] milk may not have the added ingredient.

Note also that the 1-in-5 potentially deficient children mention is about the percentage of black+"Latino" children in the general populace, and these groups are often lactose-intolerant, at least with respect to cow milk.

Lena said...

I reckon they probably do add vitamin D to dairy products, only there are a few problems with that. The obsession with low fat means for people who eat only low-fat food (and make their children do the same) it's harder for their body to absorb vitamins A, D, and E as you need a decent amount of fat in your small intestine to be able to absorb these vitamins. That's why those "fortified" 0-1% fat milks are a joke. There's not enough fat in them to make use of the vitamins and minerals! You need the vitamin D absorbtion to aid with calcium absorbtion.

It may also depend on what kind of vitamin D is being used to fortify dairy products. Often ergocalciferal (D2) is used, but it's pretty useless because it's the form of vitamin D made and used by PLANTS. Humans need cholecalciferol (D3), found in animal products particularly fish and eggs (as well as being manufactured by our bodies on exposure to sunlight). The human body has a hard time converting ergocalciferol to cholecalciferol, very little of ingested D2 turns into D3.

We also need cholesterol to make the vitamin D we can use! So we need to be eating enough fats, including saturated fats, for our bodies to manufacture cholesterol.

And some people just can't make enough vitamin D from sunlight exposure, it depends on the individual. So eating D3-rich foods with fat or taking D3 supplements, preferably an oil-based form, is important for them.

I think it has also recently been discovered that we may need a lot more vitamin D than previously thought. The original concern over vitamin D was getting enough to prevent rickets. Now that we know that vitamin D is a secosteroid, we know it has many more uses in the body than bone-related ones. My doctor (who is definitely not into quackery) says that the only way to tell how much D3 you need is to have regular blood tests over a period of time while ajusting your intake.