Research presented at the 2008 meeting of the American Society of Clinical Oncology demonstrating that vitamin D may play a role in preventing breast cancer caused a huge sensation. There is also evidence that vitamin D may prevent colon cancer. Of course, everything about nutrition is complicated, including vitamin D needs – too much vitamin D can be a bad thing. Proper balance is everything. Moderation in all things.
As complicated as understanding the role of a vitamin in the health of an adult can be, it is even harder in children, who are growing and therefore can have changing needs. An important study investigating the prevalence of vitamin D deficiency in children and the implications for heart disease was just published in the journal Pediatrics, the official journal of the American Academy of Pediatrics.
A team led by Michal Melamed, from Albert Einstein College of Medicine in New York, surveyed the vitamin D levels of over 6,000 children registered in the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey and correlated these levels with various cardiovascular risk factors. Their surprising results? Almost 10% of children in the US are vitamin D deficient, and fully 61% were vitamin D insufficient (meaning their levels were too low, but not low enough to be called deficient).
Why is this a problem? Low vitamin D levels were correlated with higher blood pressures and lower levels of high-density lipoprotein (HDL, or “good” cholesterol). Both of these are significant risk factors for heart disease in adults. This finding provides a key link between childhood nutrition and the development of heart disease in adulthood.
This is potentially a very important study. The question of why some adults develop heart disease while others do not is a complicated one, and many of us have long believed that adult disorders can have their roots in childhood. This study supports that belief, and also strongly supports the idea that intervention in the health of a child can have profound implications throughout her life.