Vitamin D deficiency is common in American children and linked with obesity and different types of fat distribution in white and black youngsters, new research shows.
Vitamin D is found in certain foods, but humans synthesize most of the nutrient they need via the action of sunlight on exposed skin. Supplements can also boost levels of vitamin D.
In the study, researchers checked vitamin D levels in 237 healthy obese and non-obese white and black children, aged 8 to 18. They found that most of them were vitamin D deficient. Low levels of vitamin D were associated with higher body mass index and fat levels, and lower levels of "good" high-density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol.
Among those with vitamin D deficiency, white children were more likely to have higher levels of fat between their internal organs (visceral adipose tissue), while black children were more likely to have higher levels of fat just under the skin (subcutaneous adipose tissue), the investigators found.
The study is published in the May issue of the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism.
"Vitamin D deficiency is rampant in American youth, and there is some suggestion in adults that low levels of vitamin D may be playing a role in the increasing rates of type 2 diabetes. It is possible the same may be true for youth with type 2 diabetes," lead author Dr. Silva Arslanian, of the University of Pittsburgh, said in a news release from the Endocrine Society.
"Besides therapeutic interventions to correct the high rates of vitamin D deficiency in youth, benefits of vitamin D optimization on fat levels, lipid [blood fat] profile and risk of type 2 diabetes need to be explored," Arslanian added.