Children in Washington DC suffer from high rates rates of asthma. Children’s National Medical Center has recently publish a small study revealing that African-American kids in that area who suffer from asthma are nearly 20 times more likely to have low levels of vitamin D than kids who do not suffer from the condition. Vitamin D supplementation for kids may turn out to be an inexpensive means to prevent the development of asthma or reduce the severity in children.
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“It’s been well-documented that as a group, African Americans are more likely than other racial groups to have low levels of vitamin D,” said Robert Freishtat, MD, MPH, an emergency medicine physician and lead author on the study. “But we were shocked to see that almost all of the African American children with asthma that we tested had low vitamin D levels. After adjusting for differences in age, weight, and the time of year of the testing, the odds of these kids with asthma being vitamin D deficient were nearly twenty times those of healthy kids.”
The study took a one-time measurement of vitamin D in the blood of 85 African American children with asthma, who were between 6 and 20 years old. Additionally, the researchers measured the vitamin D levels of 21 healthy African American children between the ages of 6 and 9 years of age. The research team found that 86 percent of the children in the study with asthma had insufficient levels of vitamin D, while only 19 percent of non-asthmatics had these low levels.
Dark Skin Impairs Vitamin D Production
Dark-skinned populations far from the equator are well-known to have low vitamin D levels in the absence of using vitamin D supplements. The high levels of melanin pigment in their skin blocks UV light. This likely evolved to protect them from harsh equatorial sunlight as melanin can convert about 99.9% of the incoming UV light to harmless heat. It thereby blocks most of the carcinogenic and oxidant-producing effects of UV light. But when people with high levels of melanin live in northern or southern latitudes, they are exposed to less intense sunlight and their protective melanin instead impedes skin production of vitamin D. This leaves them vulnerable to a wide variety of medical conditions aggravated or caused by low vitamin D levels including asthma, depression, cardiovascular disease, diabetes, multiple sclerosis, and many cancers.
Common Vitamin D Guidelines Far Too Low
Alarmingly, research on vitamin D effects in the last decade has found the recommended levels of vitamin D consumption promulgated by many government agencies such as the USDA and US FDA are woefully inadequate. Most of these agencies are still suggesting 400 IU per day is adequate intake for adults. But modern vitamin D research suggests that is only about 10% or less of that needed by many adults to attain optimal vitamin D levels in the blood. Most multivitamins sold today contain only 200 IU to 400 IU of vitamin D and vitamin D fortified foods contain even less. These are woefully inadequate levels and therefore mislead many people into thinking they are getting adequate amounts by drinking vitamin D fortified milk and taking multivitamins when in fact they are not.
Vitamin D Supplements Have High Benefits For Low Costs
Vitamin D supplements containing 1000 IU or more per dose are some of the least expensive supplements on the market. Shopping carefully, a daily supply of 5000 IU per day of vitamin D, adequate for most adults but still very unlikely to produce any side effects, can cost less than US$20 per year per person. For kids, the dosages and cost are even lower. Given the low cost and high level of health benefits, Vitamin D supplementation should be universal recommended except for the small number of people who are working in occupations with high exposure to sunlight (roofers, lifeguards, etc.) and a handful of other groups that may be sensitive to vitamin D such as those who suffer from unusual infections caused by L-form bacteria that lack cell walls and live inside of human cells. There is some evidence that vitamin D may worsen such a condition. But for the vast majority of the population who live and work indoors and spend little time outside, vitamin D supplements are not only a good idea, they may be the only realistic way to attain optimal levels of vitamin D in the blood.
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