It’s not just American adults who are getting larger, childhood obesity rates have risen by 50% in adolescents in the last thirty years. Today, a whopping one in three children and adolescents are obese. These are alarming statistics, to say the least. Overweight youth are more likely to develop the risk factors which may lead to cardiovascular disease, high blood pressure and elevated cholesterol. In addition, more and more children are being diagnosed with insulin resistance, a precursor to type 2 diabetes.
According to researchers at the University of Missouri, vitamin D supplements may be one way that out of control blood sugar can be regulated in youth. Previous research has indicated that people who are obese have a difficult time converting vitamin D to a hormonally active form.
Researchers noted that vitamin D supplements were equally, if not more effective than prescription medication in controlling blood sugar. Study participants who had low vitamin D levels and were either pre-diabetic or diabetic. A high-dose vitamin D supplement was taken for six months. Insulin levels were lowered with the supplements even with no change in diet, body weight or activity. While researchers say that the vitamin D dosage given to study participants is not the answer for everyone, the message they are sending to practitioners is to be sure that they check the vitamin D levels of their adolescent pre-diabetic and diabetic patients and treat them accordingly.
Why is Vitamin D Important?
Vitamin D is a fat-soluble vitamin that the body stores and manufacturers when the skin is exposed to sunlight. It can be found in a few foods such as oily fish and enriched dairy products. While it has been known for some time that vitamin D works very closely with calcium to maintain strong bones, and also keep the immune system healthy, there are new studies indicating that its value does not stop here.
Researchers are just beginning to touch the tip of the iceberg with regards to the marvelous health benefits of vitamin D. Among benefits being discovered is its link to diseases such as breast, colon and prostate cancer, depression, high blood pressure, diabetes, heart disease and multiple sclerosis. Population studies indicate that people with a vitamin D deficiency are more likely to die from any cause than those who are not deficient.
In addition to addressing issues with vitamin D, it is imperative that American youth consume a diet rich in whole foods, get plenty of exercise and time outside where their bodies will absorb sunlight for natural vitamin D production. It is important to note that vitamin D is best absorbed through 15 minutes of sunlight each day. If you can’t be in the sun for that long, there are some delicious foods that are packed full of vitamin D.
Too much time in front of the television, videogames and computers have begun to impact youth who are much more sedentary than they were thirty years ago. Part of the solution to the rising obesity epidemic in American youth is the adoption of healthy habits. Parents should encourage their children to be as active as possible and eat a balanced diet comprised of healthy, natural foods.
- The Alternative Daily