CHICAGO - At least one in five U.S. children aged 1 to 11 don't get enough vitamin D and could be at risk for a variety of health problems including weak bones, the most recent national analysis suggests.
By a looser measure, almost 90 percent of black children that age and 80 percent of Hispanic kids could be vitamin D deficient - ''astounding numbers'' that should serve as a call to action, said Dr. Jonathan Mansbach, lead author of the new analysis and a researcher at Harvard Medical School and Children's Hospital in Boston.
The findings add to mounting evidence about vitamin D deficiency in children, teens and adults, a concern because of recent studies suggesting the vitamin might help prevent serious diseases, including infections, diabetes and even some cancers.
While hard evidence showing that low levels of vitamin D lead to disease or that high levels prevent it is lacking, it's a burgeoning area of research.
Exactly how much vitamin D children and adults should get, and defining when they are deficient, is under debate. Doctors use different definitions, and many are waiting for guidance expected in an Institute of Medicine report on vitamin D due next year. The institute is a government advisory group that sets dietary standards.