Feature

Health scare of the week: Sunblock and vitamin D deficiency

In ladling out the sunscreen, parents may be exposing their kids to another sun-related problem: vitamin D deficiency.

In ladling out the sunscreen, parents may be exposing their kids to another sun-related problem: vitamin D deficiency. In a nationwide survey, researchers found that 70 percent of children lack sufficient vitamin D, which puts them at risk for a host of ailments, including rickets, diabetes, heart disease, and cancer. “We were astounded at how common it was,” study author Michal Melamed tells CNN.com. Girls were more likely to be vitamin D deficient, as were the obese, kids who drank milk less than once a week, and those who watched TV, used computers, or played videogames for more than four hours a day. Children with darker skin, which can block a critical level of sunlight, were also at greater risk. The common use of sunscreens, which block the UVB rays the body needs to make vitamin D, “has only compounded the problem,” Melamed says. The solution: Make sure children take a multivitamin with vitamin D, and let kids play in the sun for 10 minutes before hitting the SPF lotion. “Vitamin D deficiency has insidious, serious long-term health consequences for children,” says Michael Holick of the Boston University School of Medicine. “The sun-phobic attitude has made the problem much worse.”

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