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Posted Aug 04 2009 5:48am

 Kids' P.E. injuries have jumped 150% in 11 years.   At the same time, 7 of 10 children have become deficient in Vitamin D.   Is there a relationship?

By Marie Dufour, RD- Sometimes, the medical news wire blesses me with mana from heaven.   Take today's reports:

- Kids' PE injuries have jumped 150% over an 11-year period. (1)

- Seven out of 10 U.S. children have low levels of vitamin D. (2)

These two comments come from analysis of the 2001-2004 National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) data.   Although no cause-to effect relationship is shown between the lack of vitamin D and the rise in sports injuries, there is an alarming coincidence that begs further investigation.

Here is the conundrum:  

- On one hand, young children (ages 1to 2) are 60% more likely to be vitamin D deficient if they watch television, play video games or use computers for more than four hours a day, or if they drink milk less than once a week.   These toddlers grow into adolescents with low levels of 25-hydroxyvitamin D, more likely to be overweight and/or obese.   In addition, low vitamin D is often accompanied by high systolic blood pressure, high blood sugar, and metabolic syndrome.

- On the other hand, in an appropriate effort to prevent or reduce childhood overweight, schools increase the PE programs, particularly in middle schools.   Taking the stand that risks "associated with physical activity, however, are dwarfed by the risks of inactivity and the health problems associated with a sedentary lifestyle." (1)

Along with calcium, VITAMIN D is indispensable for bone health. Human skin produces vitamin D by action of ultraviolet rays from the sun, and 10 minutes of sunlight exposure a day is sufficient.   Dietary sources of vitamin D include liver, beef, eggs, milk, and salt-water fish.   For children, the most common dietary source of vitamin D is fortified milk.

Now, do you see the 2 main lifestyle factors that increase the risk of fractures in children?

1 - Indoor activities (computers, TV, video games) deprive children of sunlight, causing vitamin D deficiency.

2   - Drinking soda and juice instead of fortified milk deprives kids from calcium and vitamin D.   In addition, cola drinks contain a large amount of phosphorus, which leeches calcium right out of the bones.   This puts the kids at high risk for osteomalacia (bone softness) and osteporosis (brittle bones).

What can we do to improve our kids' bone health?   Get them to play outdoors at least 10 minutes per day, take away the cola drinks, and make sure they get their 2 to 3 cups of vitamin D-fortified milk (non-fat after 2 years old) daily.


  (1) Nelson NG, et al "Physical education class injuries treated in emergency departments in the US in 1997-2007" Pediatrics 2009; DOI: 10.1542/peds.2008-3843.

(2) Jared P. Reis, PhD, of the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute



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