What Vitamin D May Do for Kids' Health

Vitamin D levels in childhood tied to heart disease risk in adulthood

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Joseph V. Madia, MD Beth Bolt, RPh

(RxWiki News) Parents try to do everything they can to keep their kiddos healthy and happy, which can also set kids up to be healthy adults. This principle may also apply to making sure kids get the right amount of vitamin D.

A recent study found that low levels of vitamin D in childhood may be tied to a higher risk of heart disease later in life.

"[O]ur findings suggest that suboptimal vitamin D levels in childhood should be considered a possible risk factor for adult cardiovascular disease, although the therapeutic implications are unknown," wrote Markus Juonala, MD, PhD, of the University of Turku in Finland, and colleagues. "This is in keeping with current dietary recommendations supporting the use of supplemental vitamin D during childhood."

Dr. Juonala and team measured vitamin D levels in more than 2,100 children aged 3 to 18. The team re-examined the patients at ages 30 to 45 for heart disease risks.

Patients with the lowest levels of vitamin D in childhood had higher odds of atherosclerosis as adults, this study found. Atherosclerosis, the thickening and hardening of artery walls, is caused by a buildup of fatty substances and cholesterol. It can lead to blood clots, which can cause a heart attack or stroke.

Dr. Juonala and team found that the association did not appear to depend on other risk factors for heart disease like blood pressure, smoking, poor diet and physical inactivity.

Most children worldwide do not get enough vitamin D, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP).

"Vitamin D is essential to our body's ability to absorb calcium from our diet to build strong bones, which are the building blocks of a healthy body, and to make muscles move," said Ellen Raney, MD, of Shriners Hospitals for Children in Portland, Oregon, in an AAP press release about a past study.

Many dairy products in the US have added vitamin D. Supplements may also help children who don't get enough vitamin D from their diets or the sun. Parents should speak with a doctor before giving their children a supplement.

"More research is needed to investigate whether low vitamin D levels have a causal role in the development of increased carotid artery thickness," Dr. Juonala said in a press release. "Nevertheless, our observations highlight the importance of providing children with a diet that includes sufficient vitamin D."

This study was published Feb. 10 in the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism.

The Academy of Finland, the Turku University Foundation, the Finnish Foundation of Cardiovascular Research, the Finnish Medical Foundation and other groups funded this research. The authors declared no conflicts of interests.

Review Date: 
February 10, 2015
Last Updated:
February 14, 2015