Increasing Burden of Vitamin D Deficiency in Indian Children

Vitamin D deficiency (VDD) is very common across the world, including in India. As per estimates, the number of children with VDD is increasing continuously. Vitamin D is one of the most important hormones required for the formation and maintenance of bone, immunomodulation and cell proliferation, along with several other body functions required for the overall growth of a child. It has been reported to affect all age groups including toddlers, schoolchildren, pregnant women, neonates and both male and female adults. Its deficiency in children can lead to several health implications. The present article attempts to find the burden of this deficiency in children all over India.

Key Point: On the basis of available literature, VDD is widely prevalent in all age groups, especially children, irrespective of sex, throughout India. VDD is reported to cause several health problems in young children, especially bone-related problems. Children belonging to lower socioeconomic strata were found to be more prone to VDD in comparison to their counterparts belonging to the upper socioeconomic strata. On the basis of these available reports, it is recommended to educate parents, caregivers and even doctors about the effects of VDD on child growth, and various options to avoid and treat VDD.

Vitamin D level in Indian children

Food supplements and sunlight are the two main sources of vitamin D in humans. Some factors that can cause VDD are:

  • Decreased levels of vitamin D in breast feed
  • Lower exposure to sunlight
  • Living in metropolitan areas with tall buildings
  • Air pollution
  • Darker skin pigmentation
  • Always covering all body parts with clothing that blocks sunlight

One study shows that exclusive breastfeeding is unable to maintain the normal vitamin D level in children less than 6 months of age (1). In this study, the author shows that the low level of vitamin D in breastfeeding is the most common reason for this deficiency. VDD along with calcium deficiency were found responsible for rickets in a case control study (2).
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