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A National Committee Led by a Hasbro Children’s Hospital Adolescent Medicine Specialist Emphasizes the Importance of Vitamin D for Teens

Zeev Harel MDA committee led by Ze’ev Harel, MD, an adolescent medicine specialist from Hasbro Children’s Hospital, recently published a statement citing the importance of vitamin D for teen health. The report, titled “Recommended Vitamin D Intake and Management of Low Vitamin D Status in Adolescents” was published in the June issue of the Journal of Adolescent Health. The report was authored by Harel and members of the Society for Adolescent Health and Medicine (SAHM) bone health subcommittee, of which he is chair.

The position statement recommends that healthy teens receive a supplement of 600 IU of vitamin D daily. Those adolescents at risk for vitamin D deficiencies, such as those who are obese or have dark skin, should take 1,000 IU daily.

Harel and his colleagues cited the negative health effects that are linked to vitamin D deficiency in teens -- even small deficiencies can reduce peak bone mass and increase the risk of osteoporosis later in life. Research has found when teens who are deficient in vitamin D take the recommended dose they may show improvements in bone mineral content and density. Recent evidence also suggests that taking recommended doses can lead to fewer stress fractures, especially among physically active females.

According to Harel, taking vitamin D supplements is the most efficient way to receive the recommended dose. The body naturally receives vitamin D from sun exposure, but that method also carries the increased risk of skin cancer and sunscreens usually block vitamin D synthesis.  And, only small quantities are derived from dietary sources such as fish, eggs, dairy products and breakfast cereals.

“Adolescence is a vital period of development in the human body, so it is crucial that young adults receive the recommended intake of vitamin D to grow and maintain a healthy skeletal system,” said Harel.  

Harel currently serves as the chair of the Society for Adolescent Health and Medicine’s Bone Health Sub-Committee, in addition to being part of the Adolescent Healthcare Center at Hasbro Children’s Hospital, and is a professor of pediatrics at The Warren Alpert Medical School of Brown University.