Sunshine vitamin: Link between low cholesterol and vitamin D in kids, study finds

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07 Jun 2018 --- There is a link between higher serum vitamin D levels and lower plasma cholesterol levels in children aged between six and eight years old, research from the University of Eastern Finland has found. The findings, published in the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism, provide support for the importance of adequate vitamin D intake in children.

Vitamin D is known to be essential for bone metabolism and low vitamin D levels increase the risk of rickets, osteomalacia and osteopenia. Vitamin D may also improve plasma lipid levels and have a beneficial impact on other risk factors for cardiovascular diseases. However, evidence on these other health effects of vitamin D is still scarce and partially conflicting and therefore not a sufficient basis for giving recommendations, according to researchers.

The new findings provide support for the importance of following recommendations for vitamin D intake, which vary from country to country. The study states that the most important dietary sources of vitamin D are vitamin D fortified products such as dairy products and spreads and fish. 

In addition to the dietary intake, vitamin D supplement use is also recommended for the general population in several countries. The recommended use of vitamin D supplements varies a lot among these countries (mostly 5-50 µg/d, corresponding to 200-2000 IU/d) depending on age group and other factors.

However, “It is not possible to recommend one single recommendation for daily intake of vitamin D across all countries because several other factors such as latitude and the amount of UVB-radiation from the sun, cultural factors such as clothing, skin color, genetic factors and age also affect the 25(OH)D levels. Many countries have provided national recommendations for vitamin D intake from diet and from supplements, ranging mostly from 5 to 50 ug/day,” Sonja Soininen, Physical Activity and Nutrition in Children (PANIC) Study, Finland, tells NutritionInsight,

Vitamin D is synthesized endogenously in the skin in the presence of UV-radiation from the sun. However, in northern latitudes, the exposure to sunlight alone is inadequate to maintain sufficient serum 25(OH)D levels, especially during the winter.

The study was part of the Physical Activity and Nutrition in Children (PANIC) Study, which is a lifestyle intervention study in the Institute of Biomedicine at the University of Eastern Finland. A total of 512 children aged 6 to 8 years participated in the baseline measurements in 2007 to 2009, constituting a representative sample of their age group. The PANIC Study produces longitudinally valuable information on children's lifestyles, health, and well-being.

Vitamin D has a strong health halo among the vitamins, with a host of studies supporting its intake and supplementation. It was recently found to improve weight gain and the development of language and motor skills in malnourished children. Furthermore, a study noted that among women planning to conceive after a pregnancy loss, those who had sufficient levels of vitamin D were more likely to become pregnant and have a live birth, compared to women with insufficient levels of the vitamin. Lastly, it has been found to reduce arterial stiffness in young, overweight/obese, vitamin-deficient, but otherwise still healthy African-Americans, with results identifiable within just four months, according to researchers at the Medical College of Georgia at Augusta University.

By Laxmi Haigh

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