John C Kim and International Adoption Video

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Article: Parents Embrace ‘Race to Nowhere,’ on Pressures of School -

On the debate of defining childhood. 

Parents Embrace 'Race to Nowhere,' on Pressures of School -

Parents Embrace Documentary on Pressures of School

Published: December 8, 2010

It isn't often that a third of a movie audience sticks around to discuss its message, but that is the effect of "Race to Nowhere," a look at the downside of childhoods spent on résumé-building.

"How do you help your children balance when the whole education system is pushing, pushing, pushing, and you want your kids to be successful?" Alethea Lewis, a mother of two, asked a roomful of concerned parents who had just seen the film, a documentary, last week in Bronxville, N.Y., at a screening co-sponsored by the private Chapel School.

With no advertising and little news media attention, "Race to Nowhere" has become a must-see movie in communities where the kindergarten-to-Harvard steeplechase is most competitive.

More than 1,100 attended a screening last week at New Trier High School in Winnetka, Ill. About 500 saw it at the 92nd Street Y in Manhattan in November. It has been shown to a roomful of fathers at Pixar during lunch hour and twice to employees at the Silicon Valley headquarters of Google.

All 325 seats in the auditorium of New Canaan Country School in Connecticut were filled during a screening for parents last Thursday night. Francie Irvine, the assistant head of school, said, "Our parents' association president called me and said, 'My sister just saw this in California and we have to, have to, have to have it here.' "

The film portrays the pressures when schools pile on hours of homework and coaches turn sports into year-round obligations. Left somewhat unexamined is the role of parents whose high expectations contribute the most pressure of all.

"Everyone expects us to be superheroes," one high school senior in the film says.

Another tells of borrowing her friends' prescription for Adderall to juggle her many commitments. "It's hard to be the vice president of your class, play on the soccer team and do homework," she says.

The movie introduces boys who drop out of high school from the pressure, girls who suffer stress-induced insomnia and worse, and students for whom "cheating has become another course," as one puts it.

"When success is defined by high grades, test scores, trophies,"' a child psychologist says in the film, "we know that we end up with unprepared, disengaged, exhausted and ultimately unhealthy kids."

Vicki Abeles, the middle-aged mother and first-time filmmaker who made "Race to Nowhere," picked up a camera when a doctor said that her then-12-year-old daughter's stomachaches were being caused by stress from school.

"I was determined to find out how we had gotten to a place where our family had so little time together," she explains in the film, which has an unslick, home-video quality, "where our kids were physically sick because of the pressures they were under."

In many ways, the movie is the alter ego to the better-known "Waiting for Superman," another education documentary playing around the country this fall.

That film has earned $6.3 million at the box office since its release and ranks 20th among the most successful documentaries ever, according to Box Office Mojo, in no small part because of a blast of publicity. The director appeared on "The Oprah Winfrey Show," and President Obama greeted its stars at the White House.

"Race to Nowhere" had a one-week run in two theaters, in New York and Los Angeles, but it has primarily been screened by community groups in school auditoriums, churches and temples. Local sponsors like parent-teacher associations sell tickets and split the take with the filmmakers.

Ms. Abeles, a corporate lawyer who briefly traded on the gold desk at Goldman Sachs before moving to Northern California with her family, said the film cost her and other backers in the "mid-six figures." It will have been shown at some 700 locations through February.

With her movie's grass-roots success, Ms. Abeles has been approached by major distributors offering to place it in commercial theaters. But she is not convinced that the movie would reach as wide an audience or inspire viewers to stay for the discussions, which are moderated by principals, child psychologists and sometimes Ms. Abeles herself. The film's Web site encourages viewers to follow up with local activism (and also links to research and studies supporting the film, which pretty much avoids citing any data).

"My passion is around the change this film has the potential to create," Ms. Abeles said.

While "Waiting for Superman" lionizes urban reformers who embrace standardized testing as a necessary yardstick to hold schools and teachers accountable, Ms. Abeles believes that the testing movement is what has caused education to go off the tracks.

She talks to students, teachers and experts who say that teaching to tests, including the Advanced Placement tests, narrows education and diminishes creativity and independent thinking. Employers complain that college graduates these days lack initiative. An educator, Denise Pope, a lecturer at Stanford, says that the University of California requires remedial courses of half its students, even though their high school grades were stellar.

"They're spitting back but not retaining the information," Dr. Pope said.

Most of the families in "Race to Nowhere" are suburban and privileged, and the film has found its audience in those communities where parents often move for excellent schools. In addition to New Canaan and Winnetka, there were screenings last week in Los Altos, Calif., Bethesda, Md., and Chappaqua, N.Y. — towns where an Ivy League sticker on the back of a Range Rover is a given.

"You would not believe what reactions you get from other parents when you mention what colleges your children are looking at — you're so judged," Tara Vessels, a mother at New Canaan Country School, told about 40 other parents and staff members who discussed the movie last Friday in the school cafeteria.

The school espouses a "whole child" philosophy, and its mission statement, inscribed on the cafeteria walls, includes the sentence: "We value the imagination and curiosity of children and respect childhood as an integral part of life."

But parents said the larger community imposed its own values, and their children clamored to join an ice hockey league that practices until 10 p.m.

"Imagine if a sign out front of school says 'Mistakes Are Made Here Often,' " mused one teacher, echoing a theme in the movie that schools should accept failure as part of learning. "No one would come here! But why not?"

A mother complained that her 13-year-old "had a chapter test, and that night had to study for a quiz" in the same class. "What is the point of all the testing?" she said. "It's so stressful."

Tim Bazemore, the head of school, acknowledged ruefully that "the whole child in high school is a full résumé," telling the parents that this reflected "a failure of education leadership."

Nonetheless, he wondered how parents would feel if teachers assigned less homework and did not penalize students who did not do it. Would families think the school was failing to prepare their children for high school and beyond?

The school "needs an honest dialogue with you," Mr. Bazemore said.

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Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Triple That Vitamin D Intake, Panel Prescribes -

 Lot of different angles on Vitamin D and The IOM report. 

Another take on the IOM report

From Evernote:

Triple That Vitamin D Intake, Panel Prescribes -

Clipped from:

Triple That Vitamin D Intake, Panel Prescribes


A long-awaited report from the Institute of Medicine to be released Tuesday triples the recommended amount of vitamin D most Americans should take every day to 600 international units from 200 IUs set in 1997.

That's far lower than many doctors and major medical groups have been advocating—and it could dampen some of the enthusiasm that's been building for the sunshine vitamin in recent years.

Many doctors have added blood tests of vitamin D levels to annual physicals, and sales of vitamin D supplements have soared to $425 million last year from $40 million in 2001, according to the Nutrition Business Journal.

Getty Images

The IOM panel also issued new recommendations for daily calcium intake, up to 1,200 milligrams for women 51 and older.


Who Needs Extra D

Some people are at high risk for vitamin D deficiency, and experts believe they may benefit from more vitamin D than the new recommendations:

  • People age 50 and older: This group is at increased risk for Vitamin D insufficiency. As people age, their skin is less efficient in synthesizing the vitamin and the kidney is less able to convert it to its active hormone form.
  • People with osteoporosis: Vitamin D is crucial for building and maintaining strong bones.
  • People with limited sun exposure: This population includes the homebound, those living in northern latitudes and individuals who wear long robes and head coverings.
  • People with dark skin: Greater amounts of the pigment melanin result in darker skin and reduce the skin's ability to produce vitamin D from sunlight. People who have immigrated from sunnier climates may find their levels dropping sharply in latitudes where the sun's rays aren't as strong much of the year.
  • People with fat malabsorption: Vitamin D requires some dietary fat in the gut for absorption. Individuals who have a reduced ability to absorb dietary fat might require supplements. Fat malabsorption is associated with conditions including pancreatic enzyme deficiency, Crohn's disease, cystic fibrosis, celiac disease, surgical removal of part of the stomach or intestines and some forms of liver disease.
  • People taking certain medications:Prednisone and anti-seizure drugs can cause vitamin D to be absorbed and metabolized more quickly, reducing available blood levels.
  • People who are obese: Individuals with a body mass index equal to or greater than 30 typically have a low concentration of the vitamin in the blood.

Source: National Institutes of Health Office of Dietary Supplements

It's long been known that vitamin D is essential to maintaining strong bones. But hundreds of new studies have also linked low vitamin D levels to a higher risk of a slew of chronic health problems—heart disease, stroke, diabetes, prostate, breast and colon cancers, auto-immune diseases, infections, depression and cognitive decline. Studies have also suggested that many Americans are vitamin D deficient due to working and playing indoors and slathering on sunscreen.

The Institute of Medicine, an arm of the National Academy of Sciences that sets governmental nutrient levels, said there wasn't enough evidence to prove that low vitamin D causes such chronic diseases; it based its new recommendations on the levels needed to maintain strong bones alone.

"The evidence for bone health is compelling, consistent and gives strong evidence of cause and effect," said Patsy Brannon, a professor of nutritional sciences at Cornell University and member of the IOM panel. For the other health problems, she said, "there are relatively few randomized controlled trials, and even in the observational studies, the effects are inconsistent."

The new recommendations, which cover the U.S. and Canada, call for 600 IUs daily for infants through adults age 70 and 800 IUs after age 71. The IOM assumed that most people are getting minimal sun exposure, given rising concern over skin cancer and latitudes where the sun is too weak to create vitamin D on the skin much of the year. The panel also raised the acceptable upper limit of daily intake to 4,000 IUs for adults, from 2,000 previously.

Those levels do take into account vitamin D from food sources—but only a few, such as salmon and mackerel, contain much naturally. Milk fortified with vitamin D contains about 40 IUs per cup. Most Americans and Canadians need to get much of their vitamin D from supplements.

The IOM panel also issued new recommendations for daily calcium intake— ranging from 700 milligrams for children aged 1 to 3 up to 1,200 milligrams for women 51 and older. The main change from the 1997 recommendations was to lower the recommended level for men 50 to 70 to 1,000 from 1,200. The panel noted that teenage girls may not get enough calcium, and that postmenopausal women may get too much, running the risk of kidney stones.

The changes will impact the percentages of recommended daily allowances of vitamin D and calcium listed on food packages, as well as the composition of school-lunch menus and other federal nutrition programs

The panel dismissed concerns that many Americans and Canadians are vitamin D deficient, noting that there is no scientifically validated level that's considered optimum. Even so, the panel concluded that for 97% of the population, a blood level of 20 nanograms of vitamin D per milliliter is sufficient.

Some vitamin D advocates took particular issue with that assumption. Several major medical groups, including the Endocrine Society and the International Osteoporsis Foundation, have concluded that a level of 30 ng/ml is necessary for optimal bone health.

"Randomized clinical trials have shown that in men and women 60 and older, you see fewer falls and fractures at the 30 ng/ml level," said Bess Dawson-Hughes, endocrinologist and director of the Bone Metabolism Laboratory at Tufts University. She also noted that while healthy people may reach that level taking 800 IUs per day, those who don't go outside, who use sunscreen religiously, have very dark skin or are taking some medications will need more.

Studies have also shown that at levels below 30 ng/ml, the body seeks calcium for everyday needs by leaching it from bones.

Dr. Brannon said the panel found such a wide range of blood levels considered optimal in various studies that it could not settle on a single threshold level. "I think the confusion is understandable. The committee is very concerned about the lack of evidence-based consensus guidelines for interpreting blood levels for vitamin D," said Dr. Brannon. "We strongly recommend that these be developed."

The panel was also concerned about what she called "emerging evidence of concern" about possible ill effects of too much vitamin D. Besides a risk of kidney and heart damage noted with vitamin D levels of 10,000 IUs per day, Dr. Brannon said the panel had seen higher death rates from pancreatic cancer, prostate cancer and other causes in men whose blood levels were above 50 ng/ml. The link is still tentative and may never be proven, she noted: "The difficulty is, you can't design a trial to look at adverse effects."

Other vitamin D advocates had guarded praise for the recommendations. "At least they recognized that there was a need to raise the daily intake level. That's a very important message," said Michael Holick, a professor of medicine at Boston University School of Medicine who testified before the committee in April.

He said that despite the paucity of randomized-controlled trials, the long list of chronic diseases associated with vitamin D does make sense, given that it is actually a hormone that affects virtually every organ in the human body and regulates as many as 2,000 genes.

For his part, Dr. Holick recommends that adults take 2,000 to 3,000 IUs per day—and notes that he had done studies giving subjects 50,000 IUs twice a month for six years and seen no harmful effects. "There is no downside to increasing your vitamin D intake, and there are more studies coming out almost on a weekly basis," he said.

One in particular may help settle whether vitamin D has long-term benefits beyond bone health: The National Institutes of Health has begun recruiting 20,000 men and women over age 60 for a nationwide clinical trial to study whether taking 2,000 IUs of vitamin D, or omega-3 fatty acids from fish oil, is any better than a placebo at lowering the risk of heart disease, cancer than other diseases.

In the meantime, some doctors say the IOM recommendations will not change their belief in testing patients' vitamin D levels and supplementing them as needed.

"I supplement patients who are deficient and they feel better. They come in and say, 'I've been much less achy and stiff or my mood's been better since I've been taking the vitamin D,' said Alan Pocinki, an internist in Washington D.C. Most of his patients are office workers, and 75% of them are below the 30 ng/ml level he considers necessary.

"Do we have the data to prove this conclusively? No. We don't have evidence for much of what we do in medicine, but if you wait for the evidence, you may be depriving your patients of beneficial treatments," Dr. Pocinki said.

Write to Melinda Beck at


Monday, November 29, 2010

The power of love over bureaucracy


Unwrapping Red Tape to Find the Gift of Family

Maxim Marmur for The New York Times

For months, Rebecca Compton went daily to an orphanage in Taraz, Kazakhstan, to visit Noah.

TARAZ, Kazakhstan — He was first placed into their arms nearly a year ago, an underweight 9-month-old baby in a gray sweatshirt. They were at an orphanage behind a crumbling housing project here in Central Asia, unimaginably far from their home in suburban Philadelphia, but immediately, they knew that they did not want to let him go.

The New York Times

Taraz officials have grown more cautious on adoptions.

They decided to call him Noah.

"He seems like the right little guy for us," Rebecca Compton, a college professor, wrote as she and her husband, Jeremy Meyer, a labor lawyer, began what they thought would be a standard adoption process.

But these days in Kazakhstan, Russia and other former Soviet republics, adoptions are often far from standard, especially in light of the highly publicized — and deeply embarrassing — return of a 7-year-old Russian boy to Moscow in April by his adoptive American mother.

Ms. Compton and Mr. Meyer assumed they would soon be flying back to the United States with Noah. Then the delays mounted. Kazakh officials refused to sign off on the adoption.

Yet, Ms. Compton and Mr. Meyer would not give up.

They took leaves from their jobs, remaining in Kazakhstan for months on end while engaging in a bewildering fight with the Kazakh bureaucracy. It was not until last week, after setting aside their lives to pursue a child whom they now deeply loved, that they finally learned whether they could adopt him — whether this Thanksgiving would be a day of joy or despair.

"This is one of the only times when I have ever had this experience of feeling so helpless about something that I care so much about," Ms. Compton said. The obstacles that Ms. Compton and Mr. Meyer have faced reflect the rising complexity of foreign adoptions in the former Soviet Union, which since Communism's fall two decades ago has been a popular destination for prospective parents. As these countries become more stable, they are growing increasingly resistant to the idea of sending future generations abroad.

But they still maintain large orphanage systems, so a debate periodically flares over what is in the best interests of the children. The authorities would like local parents to adopt, but there are not enough in countries like Kazakhstan and Russia.

The issue is not necessarily poor conditions in orphanages. The one in Taraz is clean and well run, and the children seem happy. But experts say children are more likely to thrive in a good family.

Ms. Compton has spent much of the last year in Taraz, a city on the old Silk Road where English is rarely heard and boiled horse meat is typical fare. For months, she went daily to the orphanage to see Noah.

Born premature, he had lagged developmentally, but with the constant attention he has started to catch up, turning into a spirited toddler before the Americans' eyes. On a recent visit to the orphanage, he giggled and squirmed while Ms. Compton read him a book with purple dinosaurs and blue whales, as if they were any mother and child.

"When I am here, I have no doubt about what I am doing," she said. "As soon I see him, I don't think about the legal situation, or how long I have been in Taraz. I just want to hold him."

But visiting hours soon ended. She had to leave the orphanage, and he stayed behind.

On many nights in recent months, she has retreated to her hotel room and not known whether to scream or cry or bang her head against the wall in frustration. She said she once dreamed that she was hugging Noah, but then he disappeared, though she could still feel his touch. Then she located him nearby, "looking up at me with his dark searching eyes," she recalled, but he vanished again.

Foreign adoptions in Kazakhstan can go relatively smoothly, but Ms. Compton and Mr. Meyer had unfortunate timing.

In January, soon after they began the adoption process, Casey Johnson, the daughter of Woody Johnson, the owner of the New York Jets, died. Ms. Johnson, who had adopted a baby from Taraz in 2007, had led a troubled life, and her death raised questions in Kazakhstan about whether the adoption should have been allowed. Local officials became exceedingly cautious, and slowed down several adoptions.

Then in April, the 7-year-old boy was returned to Moscow on his own by his American mother, and the Kremlin demanded new adoption safeguards from the United States. That had a ripple effect across the countries of the former Soviet Union.

In May, a court rejected Ms. Compton's and Mr. Meyer's petition to adopt Noah, contending that the orphanage had not done enough to determine whether Kazakhs might want him. They appealed.

Ms. Compton, 40, who is the chairwoman of the psychology department at Haverford College in Pennsylvania, and Mr. Meyer, 40, had little ability to deal with the Kazakh legal system, which often seemed highly dysfunctional. They do not know Kazakh or Russian, the languages here, and were dependent on interpreters, consultants and lawyers.

"We are never quite sure what is going on," Mr. Meyer, who had to return to Pennsylvania over the summer for work, said last month. "We are in the dark about the most important thing in our life."

Raisa Sher, the federal children's ombudsman in Kazakhstan, said in an interview that Taraz officials were applying the law correctly. She said Kazakhstan was supporting efforts to keep babies in the country, so officials had to ensure that foreign adoptions were a last resort.

"It is very sad when a country cannot provide for its own children," she said. "We consider these foreign adoptions only a temporary measure."

Kazakh officials even suggested that Ms. Compton and Mr. Meyer seek another baby, as if Noah could be exchanged for someone else. They cringed at the thought that a child who had been given up by one set of parents would be abandoned by another.

But by September, there seemed to be an opening. With the government under intense lobbying by Ms. Compton and Mr. Meyer and their supporters, a local court indicated that it would reconsider their case if it could be shown that no Kazakhs wanted to adopt Noah.

The orphanage presented evidence. Then there were more sleepless nights while they waited in Taraz for the decision. This month, the court preliminarily endorsed the adoption. "We won. We won!!" they wrote on their private blog.

Last week, they received final approval, and on Friday they walked out of the orphanage with a new, by now 20-month-old member of their family. They are hopeful that other foreigners who have also had Taraz adoptions blocked will obtain similar relief.

Ms. Compton and Mr. Meyer have to remain in Kazakhstan for a few more weeks, but they said they were fine celebrating Thanksgiving in a foreign land, given how much they had to be thankful for.

They noted that the holiday reminded them of Noah's Kazakh name, Aldanysh. Loosely translated, it means "survivor."

Fwd: Switching Gears: More Commuters Bike To Work

 All the cool people are doing it. You have to build it in. 

I found the following story on the NPR iPhone App:

Switching Gears: More Commuters Bike To Work
by Allison Aubrey

- November 29, 2010

One way National Geographic staffers in Washington, D.C., can get to know their company's CEO is to take him up on his long-standing offer: to go for a lunchtime bike ride.

"Anyone still downstairs? OK, so we ready to go, guys?" National Geographic Society CEO John Fahey asks a group of about 20 employees

Fahey, an avid biker, says he's just trying to encourage a little exercise -- and he wants the opportunity to get to know folks informally. As the group makes the 15-mile trek to Hains Point along the Potomac River and back, Fahey makes a point of chatting with everyone, staffers say.

At National Geographic -- which is a hub of outdoorsy, adventure-seeking types who think nothing of biking busy city streets -- lots of the staffers who join Fahey for the lunchtime rides also use their bikes to get to and from work every day.

"I've been riding in for 19 years," says senior photo editor Dan Westergren, adding that he has definitely noticed the boom -- especially as bike paths and bike lanes along city streets have improved.

Westergren's commute is a combined 12 miles to and from home. And he says, given all the biking he does, he doesn't need a gym membership to stay fit.

"Really, to build it into your daily routine by commuting for me has just been the best thing," he says.

Cycling Culture

If you bike to work in Washington, D.C., Minneapolis, Chicago or San Francisco, you're part of a boom. Cycling has at least tripled over the past two decades in these -- and other -- big cities across the U.S.

"It's almost like a snowball effect," says researcher John Pucher of Rutgers University. "People see other people cycling and they say, 'Wow!' " As part of a three-year research project for the U.S. Department of Transportation, Pucher has completed a preliminary report that documents the increase in biking in nine major North American cities.

"It's almost become a cultural phenomenon," Pucher says. "It's become the 'in' thing to do." For many city dwellers, it's a money saver, a time saver and a way to sneak in daily exercise.

Research shows that the extra physical activity that people get from walking and biking to work or school is not offset by less recreational activity.

"[Active commuters] actually double the amount of their total physical activity," says Pucher. And as a result, Pucher says cities with lots of "active" commuters tend to be healthier. The most recent evidence comes from a study Pucher and his colleagues published in the American Journal of Public Health.

They found that the U.S. cities with the highest rates of walking and cycling to work have obesity rates that are 20 percent lower and diabetes rates that are 23 percent lower -- compared with U.S. cities with the lowest rates of walking and cycling.

Just 'Hide The Bike Grease'

There are, of course, a few daily obstacles. Take the weather. "In the winter it's just gross sometimes with the ice," staffer Julia Yordanova says. And there are also the dangers of traffic. "It's the cab drivers," says Jonathan Irish.

Not to mention the need to try to fit in a shower at the office. "You just try to hide the bike grease on your calf as you're sitting in a meeting," says Barbara Noe, an editor at Travel Books.

But hey, if the office culture tolerates a little sweat on the brow -- or grease on the calf -- take it a sign of good health. That's the way Pucher sees it.

Pucher says, "Most people understand that walking and cycling is healthy. They don't think as something they could integrate into their daily lives." [Copyright 2010 National Public Radio]

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Thursday, November 25, 2010

Vitamin D Lowers Diabetes Risk - TIME

 The causality of vitamin D and diabetes is still uncertain, but there are numerous studies to make connection between Vitamin D deficiency and other autoimmune issues so this biologically plausible.  Bottom line, probable benefit, unclear risk on a WHOLE population level, but on an individual level, may make a lot of sense to Supplement. 

From Evernote:

Vitamin D Lowers Diabetes Risk - TIME

Clipped from:,8599,1722399,00.html

Vitamin D Lowers Diabetes Risk

By Sora Song Thursday, Mar. 13, 2008
Click here to find out more!

Steve Nagy / Design Pics / Corbis

Giving children vitamin D supplements in infancy may shear their risk of developing type 1 diabetes later in life. In an analysis of previously published studies, British researchers found significant evidence that supplements of the vitamin were associated with a 29% reduced risk of the disease.

Participants in the studies were given vitamin D supplements from birth onward, for a variable time period, and were tracked for some 15 to 30 years, according to Dr. Christos Zipitis, a pediatrician with the Stockport NHS Foundation Trust and lead author of the new paper, which appears online this week in the Archives of Disease in Childhood. Types and doses of vitamin D supplements varied, and were not always reported, but Zipitis says supplementation was roughly 10 mcg, or 400 I.U., of vitamin D daily — the amount typically found in infant multivitamins. Based on data from three case-control studies involving 6,455 participants, the new paper found that infants who were given supplements were 29% less likely to develop type 1 diabetes compared with infants who never got extra vitamin D. Zipitis, who reviewed a total of five studies, also found evidence that the vitamin's protective effect increased with larger doses and more regular supplementation. "[Our study] provides the strongest evidence to date that vitamin D might be protective against type 1 diabetes in later life," says Zipitis. "Obviously we're based on other studies, so this has come up before. The new thing with our study is the strength of the association and the confidence with which we can talk about it."

Given the limits of the available data, however, the paper was unable to say how much vitamin D the children were getting from sources other than supplementation, or whether they were deficient to begin with. But Zipitis says children who had rickets, a bone disorder caused by extreme vitamin D deficiency, "were at a much higher risk of developing type 1 diabetes — I think about three times higher than the rest of the population, which would suggest that the higher the level of vitamin D in your body, the less likely you are to develop type 1 diabetes."

Past research has come to the same conclusion. Countries with lots of sunshine, which triggers vitamin D production in the body, for example, have a lower incidence of type 1 diabetes than relatively sunless places. Studies have also shown that new cases of type 1 diabetes crop up more often in winter, when there is less sunshine all around, than in summer. In addition, says Zipitis, when doctors check vitamin D blood levels of newly diagnosed type 1 diabetes patients, they are generally lower than average. "In the U.K. and other European countries, we haven't got the right UV radiation for most of the year," he says, adding that vitamin D deficiency is a re-emerging problem in the U.K., and that doctors are seeing a resurgence of rickets in children. "With all the scares about skin cancer, when people go outside, they're covered with sunblock, which doesn't allow the conversion of UV light into vitamin D. That's where the supplements come in."

Insufficient blood levels of vitamin D have been linked to several health problems aside from rickets and type 1 diabetes, including other autoimmune diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis and multiple sclerosis, along with some rare but serious heart problems like cardiomyopathy. Indeed a host of recent studies has shown myriad benefits of taking supplements. Beyond better bone health, stronger muscles and fewer fractures in adults, research also suggests vitamin D can reduce the risk of various cancers. A study of 1,179 postmenopausal women published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition last year found that women who took calcium and 1,100 I.U. of vitamin D daily had 80% fewer cancers than women who took a placebo or calcium alone.

For infants, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) currently recommends a supplement of 200 I.U. of vitamin D per day, starting at two months of age for breastfed babies. Once infants are weaned to vitamin-D fortified formula, however, supplements are no longer necessary.

Personal Web site for John C Kim: KIDDOC.ORG

I am a pediatrician specializing in General Pediatrics, International Adoption Medicine, and in the diagnosis and coaching of families pursuing joy.