Vitamin D deficiencies in Belgian children

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Vitamin D deficiencies in Belgian children

Of Belgian children between 0 and 18 years old, almost 18 percent have a serious vitamin D deficiency. This is evident from research by the University of Leuven and the Vrije Universiteit Brussel among almost 15,000 Belgian children. The researchers propose to extend the supplementation advice for young children.

Teenagers

The study shows that less than 30 percent of the children had an adequate vitamin D status (> 30 ng/ml). The highest prevalence of severe vitamin D deficiency (<12 ng/ml) was found in teenagers. In the age group of 13-18 years, a quarter had a serious vitamin D deficiency.

Sunlight and obesity

The researchers propose several explanations for the low vitamin D status of children, including failure to properly follow the supplementation advice for young children and low skin exposure to sunlight. According to the researchers, for children with fair skin, sun exposure is sufficient if they play outside for 15 minutes a day between May and October between 10 a.m. and 3 p.m. with uncovered arms and legs. They also mention that obese children need more vitamin D, especially in winter. This is because there is more fatty tissue, in which vitamin D can be stored. This ensures lower vitamin D levels.

Extend vitamin D supplementation?

The measured vitamin D levels were higher in summer and autumn than in winter and spring. Low vitamin D status mainly occurred in children aged 7 years and older. This may be because in Belgium there is a vitamin D supplementation recommendation (10 µg/day) for children aged 0-6 years. This is longer than in the Netherlands, where vitamin D is recommended up to the age of 4 years. The researchers suggest that extending the supplementation advice beyond 6 years can reduce the risk of vitamin D deficiency.

Dutch children

The vitamin D status of young children from the Netherlands also leaves much to be desired, as shown by previous research in the Generation R study. It is not known whether this also applies to older children in our country. In 2023, the RIVM started research into the vitamin D status of the entire Dutch population, from young to old.

Vitamin D

Vitamin D is important for the absorption of calcium, growth and maintenance of bones and teeth. It also plays a role in the functioning of the muscles and the immune system. Vitamin D is mainly found in oily fish and is added to low-fat margarine, margarine and baking and frying products. But the most important source of vitamin D is sunlight: vitamin D is produced in the skin under the influence of sunlight.

Source: Nutrients

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