Got Milk (and Sunshine)?

Got Milk (and Sunshine)?

Fighting high blood pressure and vitamin D deficiency could be as simple as a glass of milk and a healthy dose of sunshine.

By Gloria Dawson April 8, 2010
Two new studies demonstrate some age-old advice: A glass of milk and a healthy dose of sunshine could be the best defense for your kids against high blood pressure and vitamin D deficiency. One study put out by the Albert Einstein College of Medicine and published in the most recent issue of Pediatrics found that seven in 10 kids have low levels of vitamin D. Another study published in the Archives of Pediatric and Adolescent Medicine sees a correlation in the amount of time children spend watching TV and how high their blood pressure is.

In the study focusing on vitamin D deficiency, researches analyzed data on more than 6,000 children, ages one to 21. The researchers found that 9% of the children in the study, the equivalent to 7.6 million children across the U.S., were vitamin D deficient. Another 61%, or 50.8 million children, are vitamin D insufficient. Low levels of vitamin D raise the risk of bone disease, as well as heart disease and other risk factors for heart disease such as high blood pressure.

Those most at risk for vitamin D deficiency are children who are older, female, African-American, Mexican-American, obese and those children who drank milk less than once a week, or who spent more than four hours a day watching TV, playing videogames or using computers.

Taking vitamin D supplements and drinking more milk and fish, which are high in the vitamin, are ways to combat the deficiency. Dr. Michal L. Melamed, the study leader, also suggests that, “It would be good [the parents] for them to turn off the TV and send their kids outside. Just 15 to 20 minutes a day should be enough. And unless they burn easily, don’t put sunscreen on them until they’ve been out in the sun for 10 minutes, so they get the good stuff but not sun damage.”

In another study, researches also suggest getting your kids away from the TV, this time to prevent high blood pressure. The study showed children spend on average five hours each day sedentary, and of that time 1.5 hours are spent in front of the TV. The correlation between high blood pressure and screen time did not exist for computer time, only time spent in front of the TV. The findings held true regardless of the childrens’ weight.

“Given that total objective sedentary time was not associated with elevated blood pressure, it appears that other factors, which occur during excessive screen time, should also be considered,” including unhealthy snacking, the study states. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends no more then two hours of TV per day, which should be combined with at least 60 minutes of physical activity a day.

It would seem that outside play can help tackle high blood pressure and vitamin D deficiency in your children, not to mention fighting weight gain and boredom. Having trouble getting your kids outside? The Daily Green has teamed up with National Wildlife Federation and has come up with 30 Ways to Get Your Kid to Play Outside.


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