Vitamin D deficiency

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1. Overview

A person who does not expose his body to sun, is allergic to dairy products or follows a strict vegetarian diet is at higher risk of developing vitamin D deficiency.

Vitamin D, also called the sunshine vitamin, is produced by the body in response to sunlight. It can be acquired naturally by eating fish, fish liver oils, egg yolks, fortified milk and some types of grain.

Vitamin D is essential for bones to become resistant because it helps the body absorb calcium from the diet. Traditionally, vitamin D has been associated with rickets, a disease characterized by poorly mineralized bones, which results in soft bones and skeletal deformities.


1. Overview
2. Symptoms and risks of vitamin D deficiency
3. Causes of vitamin D deficiency
4. Diagnosis of vitamin D deficiency
5. Treatment
6. Vitamin D – menopause and osteoporosis
7. Vitamin D – weight and insulin resistance

2. Symptoms and risks of vitamin D deficiency

Bone pain and muscle weakness may signal a lack of vitamin D. However, in many people, the symptoms are subtle. Low blood levels of vitamin D were associated with:
- Increased risk of death due to cardiovascular disease;
- Cognitive disorders in older people;
- Severe asthma in children;
- Cancer.

Research suggests that vitamin D may have a role in preventing and treating various conditions, including type 1 diabetes and type 2 diabetes, hypertension, glucose intolerance and multiple sclerosis.

3. Causes of vitamin D deficiency

Vitamin D deficiency can occur for the following reasons:

- Inadequate intake of vitamin D over time, in general, following a strict vegetarian diet (as most natural sources of vitamin D are of animal origin, including fish and fish oils, egg yolks, cheese and beef liver).

- Limited exposure to the sun. The body synthesizes vitamin D when skin is exposed to sunlight, and persons living in the Nordic countries, wearing loose clothing or head coverings for religious reasons, do not expose enough their skin to the sun.

- Dark skin. Skin pigment, melanin reduces the ability to produce vitamin D in response to sunlight. According to studies, adults who have darker skin suffer from vitamin D deficiency.

- The kidneys cannot convert vitamin D to its active form. As people get older their kidneys are increasingly less able to convert vitamin D to its active form thus increasing the risk of vitamin D deficiency.

- Digestive tract cannot adequately absorb vitamin D. Certain medical problems, including Crohn’s disease, cystic fibrosis and celiac disease can affect the ability of the intestine to absorb vitamin D from the foods that a person consumes.

- Obesity. Vitamin D is extracted from the blood by fat cells that influence its release into the bloodstream. People with body mass index of 30 or greater often have low levels of vitamin D in the blood.

4. Diagnosis of vitamin D deficiency

The most accurate way to determine exactly how much vitamin D is in a person’s body is the analysis of 25-hydroxy vitamin D. In the kidney, 25-hydroxy vitamin D changes into an active form of the vitamin.

Active form of the vitamin can be measured in blood. Also, this form of vitamin D helps control calcium and phosphate levels in the body. The normal range is between 30.0-74.0 ngml. Lower levels indicate a deficiency of vitamin D and should intervene medically.

5. Treatment

Treatment for vitamin D deficiency involves increasing the amount of vitamin D through diet, supplements or spend a longer period in the sun. People who have a lower concentration of vitamin D 20 ngml require treatment.

The recommended daily dose of vitamin D is 600 IU for people aged between 10 and 70 years and 800 IU for adults over the age of 70 years to optimize bone health.
Sunscreen inhibits vitamin D production, so will discuss with your doctor about the options on the use of vitamin D as supplements, especially if they are present and other risk factors that predispose to deficiency of vitamin D.

6. Vitamin D – menopause and osteoporosis

As people age, the body loses its ability to absorb vitamin D, a process that contributes to the absorption of calcium. This becomes a major risk factor for osteoporosis, especially in post-menopausal women.

Still cannot say exactly how much influence sex hormones the vitamin D conversion, but it seems that women have difficulty in stimulating mechanism contributing to strengthening bone tissue when estrogen levels are low.

According to studies, a diet rich in calcium and high levels of vitamin D contribute to specific post-menopausal symptom control (anxiety, irritability, stress, etc.). This phenomenon cannot be explained clearly, but that is about body systems that are interconnected.

7. Vitamin D – weight and insulin resistance

Vitamin D is involved in calcium absorption, so is a factor involved in how the body regulates weight. Moreover, people who have a reduced ability to absorb vitamin D have a higher weight. Several studies have demonstrated correlation between high blood levels of vitamin D and low body mass.

Vitamin D deficiency may contribute to the development of diseases associated with metabolic syndrome, due to increased body resistance to insulin. Some studies have confirmed that vitamin D has a stronger effect than two medicines obtained on prescription commonly used to treat type 2 diabetes.

Any person suffering from problems that involves insulin resistance and weight gain should check their levels of vitamin D.

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