Why Kids May Need More Vitamin D

Vitamin D levels in children may be linked to heart disease risk

Kids may now need to drink their milk for more reasons that just to "grow up big and strong."

A new study from St. Michael’s Hospital in Toronto found that low vitamin D levels in young children may be linked to high non-HDL cholesterol levels. Non-HDL cholesterol levels are a marker for reduced heart health.

"Maybe the factors that lead to cardiovascular disease start in early childhood," said study author Jonathan L. Maguire, MD, a pediatrician at St. Michael's Hospital, in a press release. "If vitamin D is associated with cholesterol in early childhood, this may provide an opportunity for early life interventions to reduce cardiovascular risk."

Low vitamin D levels in adults have previously been linked to heart disease, as well as other problems like obesity, high blood pressure and diabetes.

Non-HDL — sometimes known as LDL or 'bad cholesterol' — is all of a patient's cholesterol minus his or her HDL cholesterol.

Dr. Maguire and team compared the vitamin D levels and non-HDL cholesterol levels in the blood of 1,961 kids ages 1 to 5.

All were enrolled in the Applied Research Group for Kids (TARGet Kids!) collaboration between pediatricians and researchers from St. Michael's Hospital and The Hospital for Sick Children in Toronto. This program follows kids from birth with the aim of preventing common problems in early life, and understanding their impact on health and disease in later life.

Most of these children regularly drank about two cups of cow’s milk — a good source of vitamin D — every day. Slightly more than half also took vitamin D supplements.

Dr. Maguire and team found that, with small increases in vitamin D consumption, these children's non-HDL cholesterol levels significantly decreased.

According to Dr. Maguire and team, it is not yet proven that low vitamin D in kids increases the risk for heart disease — only that the two are linked.

This study was published July 15 in the journal PLOS One.

The Canadian Institutes of Health Research funded this research. No conflicts of interest were disclosed.