The Silent Epidemic

The vitamin D deficiency epidemic – Average winter’s end CALCIDIOL (main circulating form of vitamin D) blood levels are a seriously low 15-18 ng/mL, compared to the optimal 50-55ng/mL. D-deficiency is considered a major contributor to the many health problems we are seeing today (E.g. 60% of Type 2 diabetics are D-deficient Diabetes Care March 2006; 29(3): 722–724). Especially at risk are the elderly, dark skinned people, and those who stay indoors (sometimes even in sunny climes), or who over-protect themselves from the sun with sunscreen or clothing.

Vitamin D deficiency is due to lack of sun exposure – a consequence of living in sunless climes at higher latitudes, indoor lifestyles, fear of skin cancer/wrinkles, and sunscreen use. The main reason for this shortfall, however, is a lack of appreciation for the inherent health benefits provided by sunlight’s vitamin D production, in combination with the fear of getting skin cancer or wrinkles, as evidenced by commonly found vitamin D deficiency even in the world’s sunniest areas;

  • Marwaha RK et al, Vitaimn D and bone mineral status of healthy school children in northern India, Am J CLin Nuttr 2005, 82:477-482;
  • Sedrani SH, Low 25-hydroxyvitamin D and normal serum calcium concentration in Saudi Arabia:Riyad region. Ann Nutr Metab 1984; 28:181-185;

 Also, even with sufficient sun-exposure, deficiency can result from disorders which limit vitamin D absorption or conversion.   Today’s low fat diets mean we no longer eat as much vitamin D – once eaten in such as vitamin D-rich kippers, tripe, chitterlings and lard.  Synthetic vitamin D fortification of foods has resolved some of our vitamin D requirement – but these synthesized versions are not as effective.

Signs of Deficiency

Body unable to control calcium and phosphate levels – Low blood levels of vitamin D cause release of calcium and phosphate from bones. Consequently, bones form, but without becoming dense and hard (i.e. mineralized) leading to:

  • Rickets in children – softening of the skull bones, bowing of the legs, spinal cruvature, increased joint size
  • Osteomalacia in adults – pain in the joints/hips, back, ribs; Muscles in the upper arms and thighs become weak; Fatigue; Waddling; Bone fractures; Often seen in the elderly who generally receive little sunlight (Malacia means ‘softening’)

Vitamin D deficiency is extremely detrimental to health – Realizing that receptors for CALCITRIOL (the active form of vitamin D) exist in nearly all body tissues helps us to understand the dire need for this crucial vitamin.  For example, without vitamin D, it is impossible to utilize minerals like calcium, phosphorous, and magnesium.

A Low blood level vitamin D is found in numerous conditions, where improving vitamin D levels can help: