Redefining Vitamin D Deficiency Would Mean Many More Black Teens Would Have Unhealthy Levels, Study Finds
Changing the definition of vitamin D deficiency would put many U.S. teenagers, blacks in particular, at unhealthy levels, according to a study published in the March issue of Pediatrics, Reuters Health reports. Having healthy levels of vitamin D is necessary for bone development and maintenance, and it also plays a role in nerve, muscle and immune system function.
According to Reuters Health, "there is debate over how the optimal vitamin D level should be defined." Currently, levels of vitamin D in the blood have to be below 11 nanograms per milliliter to be considered deficient. Some experts consider a level of 30 ng/mL or higher to be desirable for overall health, but many argue that the threshold should be lower at 20 ng/mL.
For the study, Sandy Saintonge of Weill Cornell Medical College and colleagues examined data from a government health survey of about 3,000 teens ages 12 to 19. They found that under the lower optimal level, 14% of the teens would be considered vitamin D deficient, compared with 2% under the current standard. Fifty percent of black teenagers would be deficient, compared with 11% under the current standard, according to the report. Overweight teenagers also had an elevated risk at the lower level, according to Saintonge.
The findings suggest that teens should take vitamin D supplements and have their blood levels routinely checked, especially if they have an increased risk of deficiency, according to the study (Reuters Health, 3/5).
An abstract of the study is available online.