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Children in Mexico: Good sun exposure habits?

Posted on: February 27, 2013   by  Kate Saley


Researchers in Mexico report that vitamin D levels among young children are surprisingly sufficient compared to their United States neighbors.

Dr Mario Flores, MD, PhD, and colleagues conducted the first study assessing vitamin D status of preschool and school-aged children in Mexico in a nationwide sample. The researchers used data from the 2006 Mexican National Health and Nutrition Survey (ENSANUT), with information from 48,000 households from both urban and rural residence areas.

The researchers randomly selected data on 1025 children ages 2 to 12 years from the ENSANUT serum bank. The findings are as follows:

  • The mean vitamin D status of pre-school aged children is 31.32 ng/ml and 42.32 ng/ml for children ages 6-12 years.
  • Overall, 60% of the children had vitamin D levels above 30 ng/ml, while 15% had levels below 20 ng/ml.
  • Forty-five percent of the pre-school age children had vitamin D levels greater than 30 ng/ml while 20% of the children had vitamin D levels <20 ng/ml
  • About 70% of school-aged children (6-12 years) had levels above 30 ng/ml, with only 10% having levels below 20ng/ml
  • Children living in urban areas were more likely to be deficient when compared with children living in rural areas. Ten percent of rural dwelling children had vitamin D levels below 20 ng/ml while 20% of children living in urban areas had levels <20 ng/ml.

The authors’ results differed from research on similar populations in other countries,

“A representative US sample of 4,558 children ages 1 y to 11 y who participated in the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey found a mean serum 25-OH-D level of 68 nmol/L [27ng/ml], which is considerably lower than what we observed (94.6 nmol/L [38 ng/ml])…”

The researchers do warn that there may be wide variability in the accuracy of testing methods. However, it is probable that environment and lifestyle factors – such as sun exposure, use of sunscreen, environmental factors and location (nearer the equator) – contributed to the differences observed among the population groups and countries.

Although the vitamin D status of the children represented are more promising than many, the authors call for further research on the topic and the need for further public health awareness about vitamin D deficiency in Mexico.


Flores M, Macias N, Lozada A, Sanchez LM, Diaz E, Barquera S. Serum 25-hydroxyvitamin D levels among Mexican children ages 2 y to 12 y: A national survey. Nutrition. 2013.

6 Responses to Children in Mexico: Good sun exposure habits?

  1. D-fiant

    What we want to know to now is. Are the children healthier and as adults are they also healthier then places where Vitamin D is not so high in the population???

    • Brant Cebulla

      D-fiant, I was thinking about this too and curious what kind of diseases Mexico suffers compared to its USA neighbors. What are their cancer rates? Autoimmune disease rates? I haven’t yet had time to do much of a literature scan, perhaps a few members have some insight.

  2. kenmerrimanmd

    unfortunately this benefit for Mexican children can probably be wiped out by an improved level of affluence and more computers
    truly it is not terribly surprising since the whole country is located where sun can produce vit D 365 days / year and the urban rural difference is also expected

  3. Kate Saley

    Here is some interesting commentary on the cancer incidence in Mexico compared to the US and EU: http://www.frost.com/sublib/display-market-insight-top.do?id=125783582

    Some believe the lower cancer incidence in Mexico is caused by a lack of access to health care (less diagnosis). I’ll continue to look for more recent data. In the mean time, thoughts?

  4. Brant Cebulla

    Nice find Kate. I wonder if there has been much research into how much incidence rates are underestimated given lack of access to health care.

  5. Rita and Misty

    Thank you for an excellent post, Kate.

    I had the privilege of spending a great deal of time in the Yucatan and Quintana Roo, Mexico during the early 90s. Mexico is probably my favorite country.

    I met some of the kindest, most empathetic and generous physicians in Mexico during my visits.

    These exceptional doctors cared for their patients, though few patients could pay them for services rendered.

    Doctors such as these inspiring human beings will always have a place in my heart.
    They certainly “walked their talk.”

    However, not all Mexicans were so fortunate back then regarding access to decent healthcare.

    25 years ago, the majority of Mexicans went without appropriate care due lack of health insurance.
    15 years ago, still half the population did not have access to health care.

    As with so many Public Health issues, women and children are often the most negatively impacted.

    Things are slowly changing now, under Mexico’s universal health care system. It isn’t perfect, but rather a work in progress.

    Progress is what is important.


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