March 23, 2009

C.U. Professors Find Teens Lack Vitamin D

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A new study by researchers in the Department of Public Health at Weill Cornell Medical College found that one in seven U.S. teens are Vitamin D deficient.
“Vitamin D is necessary for optimal calcium absorption,” stated Prof. Sandy Saintonge, clinical pediatrics and clinical public health, who performed the study alongside Prof. Heejung Bang, biostatistics and epidemiology, and Prof. Linda M. Gerber, epidemiology and ethnic disparities in disease outcomes, at Weill Cornell Medical College’s Department of Public Health .
“As per the American Academy of Pediatrics, a Vitamin D blood level less than 20 ng/ml (nanograms/milliter) is considered Vitamin D deficient. Vitamin D is necessary to maintain strong healthy bones, but there is now increasing evidence that it is necessary for health maintenance. It’s deficiency has been associated with the development of cardiovascular disease, diabetes, cancer and immune dysfunction in adults” stated Sandy Saintonge, who is also a pediatric emergency physician at New York Hospital Queens.
According the National Institute of Health’s Office of Dietary Supplements, Vitamin D is essential for children and teens because it maintains their calcium balance and contributes to the growth of strong bones, possibly preventing against osteoporosis. Osteoporosis, a disease where an individual’s bone tissue deteriorates which causes lower bone mass, afflicts an estimated 10 million Americans. By 2020 the disease will affect over 14 million Americans, while 47 million Americans will suffer from low bone mass related issues, the National Osteoporosis Foundation predicts.
The Cornell professors conducted their research “using NHANES which is a national data set with data from a diverse multiracial population. Until our research the national prevalence of vitamin D deficiency in adolescents was unknown. There were estimates from smaller studies, but these studies did not reflect the racial/ethnic composition of the U.S.,” Saintonge noted.
When looking at the reasons behind why, “14 percent of all teens were vitamin D deficient,” Saintonge looked to the changing culture and environment in which this new generation is being raised.
“More teens are at risk for several reasons, from decreased sun exposure to the fact that milk has been replaced by soft drinks, juices, other beverages that have limited nutritional value,” Saintonge explained. “The prevalence of obesity has also been increasing. Vitamin D is fat soluble and is sequestered in body fat in obese individuals, thereby decreasing its serum levels.”
The National Institute of Health Services notes that the optimal Vitamin D intake varies depending on the individual’s age. While individuals of ages 9 to 18 should intake 1.300 milligrams of calcium, adult men and women of ages 19 to 50 are only recommended to intake 1,000 milligrams.
While the Vitamin D deficiency health issue cannot be solved overnight, Saintonge argued that minor alterations in eating habits among teens can greatly improve their Vitamin D intake.
“Teens can improve dietary intake, [eating] foods known to be high in Vitamin D such as salmon, sardines, canned tuna, eggs, fortified cereals, milk and orange juice,” Saintonge said. “They can also take 400 IU daily.”
Through this research, Saintonge hopes that people will be better aware of this pressing problem, and thus, be better equipped to handle this pressing issue concerning national health.
Saintonge stated, “I performed the research in order to advance knowledge in this area and quantify the magnitude of this problem. I believe that doing so will improve our ability to address this important public health issue.”