The recent investigation, led by Jared Reis of Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, was described at an American Heart Association conference in Palm Harbor, Fla. The findings showed that teenagers with the least vitamin D in their bodies had more than twice the risk of having high blood pressure and high blood sugar. And they had more than four times the risk of having metabolic syndrome, in which a person displays three of the following risk factors for heart disease and diabetes: a fat midsection, a bad blood-fat profile, high blood pressure, an inability to properly use insulin or blood sugar, and a blood protein profile indicating a tendency toward clotting or inflammation.
“We’re showing strong associations that need to be followed up,” said Reis. His study was performed on about 3,600 boys and girls ages 12 to 19 who participated in a U.S. health survey from 2001 to 2004.
Reis and his colleagues found that, generally speaking, all of the teens were vitamin D deficient. Whites had the highest blood levels, blacks had the lowest and Mexican-Americans were in between. The reason may be that light-colored skin absorbs more of the sun’s ultraviolet rays. Or it may be that blacks eat fewer vitamin D-enriched dairy products due to lactose intolerance that’s more common than in whites.
Randal Thomas, director of the cardiovascular health clinic at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn., said teens likely get their vitamin D deficiencies from bad diets and avoidance of outdoor exercise.
“If their diet includes chips and soft drinks, they’re probably not getting enough vitamin D,” he said.