A recent study published in the Journal of Nutrition found that overall diet quality, sedentary behavior, and playing outside were important modifiable factors associated with vitamin D deficiency in six year old children.
Vitamin D plays an important role for proper growth and development during childhood. Not only does vitamin D build strong teeth and bones, but it strengthens the immune system and improves cardiovascular health. Some research has found that low vitamin D status in children also relates to respiratory infections and dental caries.
In order to improve vitamin D status in children, it’s important to identify the risk factors associated with vitamin D deficiency. Recently, researchers from the Netherlands assessed the vitamin D levels in 4,167 children aged six years old to identify determinants of vitamin D deficiency.
The researchers found that 29.8% of the children were considered deficient (< 20 ng/ml), while 36.5% were considered sufficient (20-30 ng/mL). About one third of the children had what the researchers considered optimal vitamin D status (above 30 ng/ml).
The researchers identified non-modifiable risk factors associated with vitamin D deficiency such as the child’s age and race. The older the child was, the more likely they were to be deficient. African, Asian, Turkish, and Moroccan children were more likely to be deficient than those with a Dutch or other Western ethnic background.
The researchers also determined modifiable risk factors for low vitamin D levels. They found that children who watch television for two or more hours per day were 32% more likely to be vitamin D deficient than the children who watched less than two hours of television per day. Playing outside for at least one hour per day decreased the child’s risk for vitamin D deficiency by 29% compared to the children who played outside for less than one hour.
The researchers concluded, “… Important determinants of vitamin D deficiency included a higher child age, more television watching, less playing outside, less biking to school, lower maternal age, lower household income, multiparity, and higher maternal BMI.”