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Kids, Teens and Vitamin D

Vitamin D can be called something of a wonder nutrient with countless studies linking inadequate vitamin D levels to poor health. More studies are showing that supplementing with vitamin D promotes immune, bone, and overall health—simply put, the body needs vitamin D to properly carry out many metabolic functions. What’s more, new research on this topic is revealing that the benefits of proper vitamin D levels hold true for children and teens as well as adults.

The Endocrine Society’s Annual Meeting highlighted two studies showing the benefits of vitamin D and the very important role it plays in raising healthy kids today:

  • Researchers in one of the studies learned that a deficiency of vitamin D may be linked to early puberty in girls. This suggests that supplementing girls with vitamin D may help delay early puberty. The study concentrated on 110 girls age 7-10. Thirty-five of these girls were experiencing early puberty (before the age of 8). Of these thirty-five girls, 44% showed a severe deficiency in vitamin D while only 21% of girls who entered puberty at a normal age showed a vitamin D deficiency.  Sim Sum Kim, MD, PhD, and lead researcher on the study, stated, “Our results suggest that vitamin D may inhibit early pubertal onset and/or the rapid progression of puberty.”
  • The other study focused on the link between vitamin D and obesity in children. Of the 86 children age 10-18 who participated in the study, 54 of them were overweight or obese. Researchers discovered that the more obese these children were, the lower their vitamin D and adiponectin levels (an important protein that helps regulate blood sugar and fatty acids) and the higher their leptin levels (a hormone linked to appetite and body weight). These obese children also showed higher markers for allergies and inflammation. Researchers concluded that these problems seemed to depend at least in part on the deficiency of vitamin D in these children and that supplementing kids with vitamin D could help mediate allergy and obesity concerns.

Researchers continue to link condition after condition to a deficiency of vitamin D. The good news is a deficiency is easy to detect through a test your family doctor can provide. Getting a baseline for where your family’s vitamin D levels are is proving to be an important health point for optimizing our children’s health now and as they grow.

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“Some kids like veggies and some don’t”—how many moms have said this when describing their picky eater’s preferences? Researchers are discovering that perhaps veggie consumption isn’t just a case of the veggie-lovers versus the veggie-haters, however, but more a case of nutrition education.

We can all agree that kids are like sponges; they absorb virtually everything that comes their way and they are avid learners. Researchers at Stanford University set out to see if they could encourage kids to eat more veggies by teaching them about the health benefits of doing so, rather than offering ultimatums (no dessert until you’ve eaten your peas!).

Their study, conducted over a three-month period and published in Psychological Science, took kids’ natural curiosity as a starting point and covered nutritional information in five storybooks aimed at preschoolers. The books tackled seemingly lofty topics such as:

  • Food categories
  • The importance of dietary variety
  • Nutrients as bodily fuel
  • Digestion and its functions
  • The role of microscopic nutrients in health

Of course these topics were presented in an accessible and entertaining manner for preschoolers, but the focus was still on education. The hypothesis was that by learning more about why they should eat their veggies and what these foods did for their bodies, preschoolers would want to naturally make more veggie choices as their snacks. The focus of the research was on choice and helping to encourage children to make these healthy decisions. During snack time, one group of preschoolers read about nutrition in their storybooks while the control group carried on with snack time as usual….

And the results? The children actively learning about nutrition displayed an impressive understanding of the subject and more than doubled their snack time veggie intake by choice. The control group’s veggie intake remained about the same but the kids learning the why behind their choices saw a dramatic increase in veggie consumption during the study.

Researchers want to find out what this type of conceptual teaching does for kids’ veggie intake over the long-term, but the initial results are certainly promising for moms everywhere!

Source: “Getting Kids to Eat Their Veggies. A New Approach to an Age-Old Problem,” Science Daily, July 2013.

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