Overweight Children Lack Vitamin D
Overweight Children Lack Vitamin D. While overweight children are not lacking in calories, they are often lacking in nutrients. That’s because the typical American diet is filled with calorie dense, yet nutritiously void, fare — not to mention the fact that said children spend all their time indoors updating their Facebook pages and watching TV. Therefore, it should come as little surprise that a recent study found that a high percentage of overweight and obese youths have vitamin D deficiencies.
The research, conducted at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center and Children’s Medical Center in Dallas, showed that young children and teenagers with weight problems were at a much higher risk of having vitamin D deficiencies than their peers who are at average weights.(1) The scientists made this determination by poring over the records of more than 12,000 U.S. kids between the ages of 6 and 18. Each of these subjects had participated in the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey from 2003 through 2006.(2)
The findings show that vitamin D levels are low in many kids, but are far worse in the heaviest of them.
Among the children considered to have healthy weights, approximately 21 percent had a vitamin D deficiency. This number climbed to 29 percent in the overweight kids. And it just kept going up. Among obese children, 34 percent were found to be deficient; and for those categorized as severely obese, the number skyrocketed to 49 percent. A BMI (Body Mass Index) between 18.5 and 24.9 is considered normal weight, a BMI between 25.0 and 29.9 is considered overweight, a BMI between 30.0 and 39.9 is considered obese, and a BMI of 40.0 or above is considered severely obese.(3)
Essential to Correct Deficiencies
It is essential to correct vitamin D deficiencies in anyone, but especially in kids, because this nutrient is so valuable to growing bones. And without sufficient levels, studies have found an increased risk for respiratory infections, dementia, and certain forms of cancer.(4)
One might think that children who are so overweight might be guaranteed, considering all the extra calories, to take in enough nutrients to fully supply all of their body’s needs. However, a major contributing factor to their weight is the regular consumption of quantities of junk food and empty calories. If they were filling up on tons of fruits and vegetables, few if any of these children would be dealing with weight issues or nutritional deficiencies, for that matter.
Interestingly, to combat this problem, the scientists leading the research recommended getting these kids to drink more low-fat milk to add vitamin D to their diets, even going so far as to say that those who don’t like the taste of milk should add artificially-sweetened flavors to make it more palatable. Cow’s milk is, theoretically, fortified to be a good source of vitamin D with approximately 120 IUs in a cup (5) and has the added advantage that it helps the body absorb the calcium it provides.
UNFORTUNATELY, most milk is fortified with vitamin D2, which is next to useless. In addition, much of the milk sold in America is also obtained from disease-laden cows injected with growth hormones and antibiotics, passing health problems on to their consumers. And the concept of giving these kids artificial sweeteners to flavor their milk is even worse. While they may not add much in the way of calories, research has shown for years that they may throw off your body’s natural calorie-counting response and lead you to overindulge in other foods. As a 2008 study at Purdue University in West Lafayette, Indiana, found, this can actually promote weight gain – the last thing in the world these kids need.(6)
Other sources of vitamin D might be a better option for many kids with deficiencies. Cod liver oil and certain seafood options such as salmon provide some of the highest quantities of vitamin D naturally. And don’t forget about good, old-fashioned sunlight. Our bodies produce their own vitamin D when exposed to the rays of the sun. However, with all of the skin cancer worries these days, few kids spend time outdoors without sunscreen, which blocks our ability to produce vitamin D. No one would advocate skipping the sunscreen when exposed to mid-day sun, but only the very fairest skinned individuals will begin to burn in 10 or 15 minutes of morning or late afternoon sun without protection–and that’s all it takes to get your daily quotient of vitamin D. And if you’re going to supplement, just make sure you’re using vitamin D3, not D2.
People with autoimmune diseases, such as type 1 diabetes, may have a harder time getting enough sunlight to compensate for vitamin D deficiency. It seems to be much more common in people with autoimmune diseases. In fact other research has suggested a causal link between type 1 diabetes and vitamin D deficiency, recommending supplementation of this vitamin as a preventative measure. We think it is a very important for type 1 diabetics. Consult with your medical professional to see if adding it to your treatment plan is right for you.
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- Rubin, Rita. “Low Vitamin D More Common in Overweight Kids.” WebMD. 24 December 2012. Accessed 6 January 2013. http://children.webmd.com/news/20121220/vitamin-d-overweight-kids
- “National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey.” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. 19 December 2012. Accessed 7 January 2013. http://www.cdc.gov/nchs/nhanes.htm
- “Obesity.” Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center. Accessed 7 January 2013. http://medicalcenter.osu.edu/patientcare/healthcare_services/center_for_wellness_prevention/comprehensive_weight_management/obesity/Pages/index.aspx
- “Ten health risks from low vitamin D levels.” Emax Health. Accessed 7 January 2013. http://www.emaxhealth.com/1020/83/32596/ten-health-risks-low-vitamin-d-levels.html
- “Vitamin D.” National Institutes of Health Office of Dietary Supplements. Accessed 7 January 2013. http://ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/VitaminD-HealthProfessional
- “Artificial Sweeteners Linked to Weight Gain.” American Psychological Association. 10 February 2008. Accessed 7 January 2013. http://www.apa.org/news/press/releases/2008/02/sweeteners.aspx