Dr. Christy Turer of the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center, a pediatrician at Children's Medical Center Dallas, said risk of vitamin D deficiency was even higher for severely obese and minority children.
"One-in-2 children with severe obesity is vitamin D deficient, and only about 10 percent of severely obese African-American children are not deficient," Turer said in a statement. "While we don't know for sure what causes the deficiency, there are things parents can do to reduce their child's risk."
Left untreated, vitamin D deficiency can pose serious health risks that include rickets and osteomalacia, a condition that causes softening of the bones. The deficiency has been linked to cardiovascular disease, diabetes and severe asthma, Turer said.
Helpful behavioral changes include limiting television/computer and video game time to less than 2 hours a day, increasing physical activity to more than 2 hours a week and encouraging children to drink 2-3 cups of low-fat vitamin D-fortified milk per day.
While 600 international units of vitamin D per day is recommended for healthy children, obese children may need more, Turer said. Parents should talk to their pediatrician regarding the appropriate dose, Turer advised.
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