A new study from India suggests that sunlight-blocking haze may reduce children's exposure to the sun's vitamin D-inducing rays. Vitamin D, which helps the body to absorb calcium, is often added to milk. The body also manufactures this nutrient when the skin is exposed to the ultraviolet-B (UVB) radiation contained in sunlight, and this is generally a person's main vitamin D source.
Vitamin D deficiency puts people at risk for the bone-thinning disease osteoporosis as well as chronic bone and muscle pain. It may also increase the risk of certain cancers. Children who lack vitamin D can develop a called rickets, in which the bones fail to grow strong and straight.
Researchers from Delhi, India took blood samples from 26 infants and toddlers between 9 and 24 months of age who lived in downtown Delhi--an area with high levels of visible atmospheric pollution. The team of researchers measured the children's vitamin D levels and compared them to those of a similarly aged group of youngsters who lived in a less polluted area on the outskirts of Delhi. They also used a device to measure the level of haze in both neighborhoods, to gauge how much UVB light was reaching the ground.
Levels of vitamin D in the blood of children living in the more polluted area were less than half those of the levels measured in the blood of the kids living in the less polluted area, the investigators found. Three children living under a haze of pollution had vitamin D levels low enough to be associated with the bone disorder rickets, and another 9 had concentrations below the level conventionally regarded as the lower limit for vitamin D adequacy.
The study concluded that children living in areas of high atmospheric pollution are at risk of developing vitamin D deficiency rickets and that children living in such areas should be offered vitamin D supplements
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