Vitamin D Deficiency May Indicate Heart Disease in Overweight Children, Adolescents

Vitamin D deficiency linked to early signs of heart disease in children and teenagers.

Vitamin deficiency can lead to numerous health events, especially in young children and adolescents who are still developing. Findings from a new study suggest that vitamin D deficiency may indicate early markers of heart disease.

“Pediatric obesity affects 17% of infants, children, and adolescents ages 2 to 19 in the United States, and obesity is a risk factor for vitamin D deficiency,” said lead author Marisa Censani, MD. “These findings suggest that vitamin D deficiency may have negative effects on specific lipid markers with an increase in cardiovascular risk among children and adolescents.”

Vitamin D can be produced naturally from sunlight exposure and can also be ingested through food and supplements. Vitamin D is needed for bone health and can prevent rickets in children, according to the National Institutes of Health. It also plays a role in cell growth, reduction of inflammation, and neuromuscular and immune function.

Findings from the new study suggest that vitamin D may also be a predictor of heart health in young children and adolescents who are overweight or obese.

"This research is newsworthy because this is one of the first studies to assess the relationship of vitamin D deficiency to both lipoprotein ratios and non-high density lipoprotein (non-HDL) cholesterol, specific lipid markers impacting cardiovascular risk during childhood, in children and adolescents with obesity/overweight," Dr Censani said.

In the study, the authors reviewed medical records of patients aged between 6 and 17 who were evaluated at a pediatric endocrinology outpatient clinic. Of 332 patients included, 178 patients were classified as overweight or obese — a body mass index above the 85th percentile.

The authors gathered information about total cholesterol, triglycerides, HDL, LDL, and non-cholesterol for each patient. The authors then calculated total cholesterol/HDL and triglyceride/HDL ratios, according to the study.

Patients were considered to have a vitamin D deficiency if they had 25 hydroxyvitamin D below 20 ng/ml.

The authors discovered that vitamin D deficiency was strongly linked to an increase in atherogenic lipids and early signs of heart disease, according to the study.

In patients with a vitamin D deficiency, total cholesterol, triglycerides, LDL, non-HDL cholesterol, total cholesterol/HDL, and triglyceride/HDL ratios were all significantly higher compared with non-deficient patients.

"These results support screening children and adolescents with overweight and obesity for vitamin D deficiency and the potential benefits of improving vitamin D status to reduce cardiometabolic risk," Dr Censani concluded.

Increasing vitamin D intake and production, along with lifestyle changes, could significantly reduce this population’s risk of developing heart disease and improve overall health.