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Memoral Day 2011: Soak In The Vitamin D, Your Children May Need It

Balancing vitamin D intake with skin cancer dangers.

This Memorial Day will probably find you rubbing your kid down with sunscreen. But you may want to let your child soak in the sun.

Vitamin D has mostly been known as calcium’s sidekick, helping to keep teeth and bones, strong but in recent years, a new benefit is taking center stage.

That’s why Dr. Alan Rosenberg, a pediatric rheumatologist at the University of Saskatchewan is asking for children to help him conduct a new research study into vitamin D deficiency in children.

Studies suggest American children are not getting enough vitamin D. In fact, it’s been reported that as much as twenty percent of children in the United States don’t have enough vitamin D in their bloodstream.

“For centuries, perhaps, vitamin D has been known to be important for ensuring the health of bones, but in recent years, it’s become apparent that vitamin D is also very important for regulating the immune and inflammatory systems,” Dr. Rosenberg says.

The reason the study is being conducted in Saskatoon?  People living in Saskatchewan have difficulty acquiring sufficient vitamin D, which the body produces when exposed to the sunshine’s ultraviolet light. Even the brightest sunshine during the winter months does not include ultraviolet light sufficient to trigger production of enough vitamin D, explains Rosenberg.

Interestingly, all the hard work we’re doing to avoid deadly skin cancers could be harming us and our children in other ways, specifically, by limiting the body’s product of vitamin D.

“You don’t want to get a sunburn, because that is not healthy. But on the other hand, if a child is indoors and then we slather them with sunscreen, cover them with hats and long sleeves before they go out and they don’t get any exposure to the sun, then that’s a bit of a problem too,” Rosenberg tells The Star Phoenix

The doctor’s research will include 200 children, ages 18 months to 5-years-old who live near Saskatoon. Parents will be asked questions about their child’s diet and exposure to sun. The kids’ skin color will also be measured and samples of their saliva and blood will be taken.

Rosenberg wants to ultimately set up new guidelines that strike the right balance between sun exposure and vitamin D intake. The study will also look at the role genetics plays in how vitamin D is absorbed by the body.

Man, it’s tough to win, isn’t it? Skin cancer vs. vitamin D deficiency… Always trying to figure out pros and cons of this thing or that thing. Hard to know what to do, although skin cancer is still way scarier than vitamin D deficiency but I guess that’s the point, right? Setting up guidelines so we know exactly how much sun our kids need and how to get vitamin D to them through sources other than the sun.

Image: flickr.com/Hunterrrr

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