News in science

Overview study: Vitamin D in short supply among overweight children

from Mag. Margit Weichselbraun
on 16.09.2019
Overview study: Vitamin D in short supply among overweight children Overview study: Vitamin D in short supply among overweight children

Overweight children have a tough time: not only are they teased by their peers, they also run a higher risk of contracting diseases that normally only affect adults. On top of that, a recent study has now shown that they also have lower vitamin D levels than their normal-weight peers.

Childhood obesity is a widespread problem in Austria. 21 to 30 percent of schoolchildren are overweight or even obese. As a rule, these children are not born fat, but put on these extra pounds over the years – in kindergarten, school or during puberty. This has many possible causes, but a lack of exercise combined with an unhealthy diet is certainly one of the main ones. Many adolescents nowadays prefer to sit at home in front of the television, tablet or computer instead of roughhousing, cycling or playing catch. Children quickly get stuck in a kind of vicious circle, because if you don’t get much exercise, you generally put on weight. And if you’re overweight, you tend to exercise even less. On top of this, most children prefer sugary and fatty foods to raw fruit and vegetables or whole foods.

Study: more weight means less vitamin D

This couch-potato mentality apparently has a negative impact on the body’s supply of the “sunshine vitamin” – vitamin D. A recent study shows that vitamin D deficiency is especially common among obese children. 96% of German, nearly 79% of American and up to 92% of Russian overweight children suffer from low vitamin D levels. A person’s vitamin D levels can easily be determined by a blood test. Individual measures, under medical supervision if necessary, can be selected on the basis of the results of these tests and individual lifestyle choices.

Balanced vitamin D levels are important for children in several respects. The fat-soluble vitamin is not only needed for healthy bone growth, it also contributes to normal immune function.

Hello sunshine!

Vitamin D differs from other vitamins in that the body meets most of its needs with the aid of sunlight. As a result, bookworms, TV junkies and computer geeks have an increased risk of developing vitamin D deficiencies. Parents of young homebodies should therefore get their children outside at least once a day for a minimum of 15 minutes. This is especially important in the spring and summer months, as the body cannot produce vitamin D in the fall and winter due to the low position of the sun in the sky. Instead, it has to draw on the vitamin D reserves it has stockpiled during the summer. The German Nutrition Society (Deutsche Gesellschaft für Ernährung) also recommends including plenty of foods in our diet that are rich in vitamin-D and/or taking vitamin D supplements to tide us over the months when a lack of sunlight impedes the body’s production of vitamin D.

Zakharova, I. et al. 2019. Vitamin D Insufficiency in Overweight and Obese Children and Adolescents. Front Endocrinol (Lausanne). 10:103.

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