A new study from Hasbro Children's Hospital in Providence, Rhode Island, has found that most obese adolescents are lacking in vitamin D. The researchers call for increased surveillance of vitamin D levels in this population and for further studies to determine if normalizing vitamin D levels will help to lower the health risks associated with obesity. The study is published in the May edition of the Journal of Adolescent Health. Obesity in children and adolescents has reached epidemic proportions, with a prevalence of 16.4 percent among 10 to 17 year olds as of 2007. The increased prevalence of obesity may lead to increased risk of diabetes, hypertension, and cardiovascular disease, as well as to an increased risk of cancer. Some of these health consequences of obesity have also been associated with vitamin D deficiency or insufficiency. In addition, vitamin D status is significantly associated with muscle power/force, and therefore, a deficiency may interfere with the obese adolescent's ability to increase physical activity. Lead author Dr. Zeev Harel, a pediatrician specializing in adolescent medicine at Hasbro Children's Hospital, reports that screening obese adolescents for vitamin D status by measuring their blood 25 OH D level has become a routine protocol at the Adolescent Health Center of Hasbro Children's Hospital since 2007. For this retrospective study, Harel and his co-authors explored the prevalence of low vitamin D status among 68 obese adolescents, and examined the impact of treatment of low vitamin D status in these patients. The study found that low vitamin D status was present in all of the girls (72 percent deficient and 28 percent insufficient) and in 91 percent of the boys (69 percent deficient and 22 percent insufficient).
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