Too much time spent indoors plus poor nutrition have driven a rise in vitamin D deficiency in people in the past two decades. But what are the symptoms of a deficiency, and how can it be prevented?
What is vitamin D?
Vitamin D is a fat soluble vitamin that is made when the skin is exposed to sunlight. It is present in only a small number of foods, including fortified products, such as milk.
Vitamin D is best known for supporting calcium metabolism. It helps the body absorb calcium from food and supplements to support the maintenance of healthy bones cells.
Vitamin D comes from a small variety of foods and is produced when the skin is exposed to sunlight.
Vitamin D also:
- supports muscle health
- plays a role in the immune system
- regulates blood pressur and supports cardiovascular health
Vitamin D intake is not the best measure of the vitamin’s status in the body, as many factors can affect its uptake. For example, the health of the stomach can interfere with how much vitamin D a person absorbs from the food they eat.
What causes vitamin D deficiency?
People with serum vitamin D levels of less than 20 (ng/mL) are at risk for vitamin D deficiency.
Vitamin D deficiency occurs when a person either does not consume enough vitamin D or when their body cannot absorb and metabolize the vitamin D they do consume.
Below are some of the factors that affect whether or not a person is at risk of having a deficiency:
- Living at a high latitude: This is due to there being less access to the sun’s ultraviolet-B (UVB) rays.
- Being indoors too much: means missing out on the sun’s rays.
- Living in a highly polluted area
- Using large quantities of sunscreen
- Having darker skin: People with darker skin need more sunlight exposure to absorb enough vitamin D.
- Diet: Eating foods rich in vitamin D, or foods that have been fortified with the vitamin, reduces the risk of vitamin D deficiency.
- Being overweight: Research suggests that being overweight correlates with lower vitamin D levels. This may be because excess body fat somehow affects vitamin D absorption.
- Age: People’s ability to absorb vitamin D may decline with increasing age.
- Gut health: Disorders that affect the gut, such as Crohn’s diseas, can undermine the intestines’ ability to absorb vitamin D.
- Kidney and liver health: People with liver or kidney disease tend to have lower vitamin D levels.
- Pregnancy or breast-feeding: more risk for deficiency .
- infant: Human milk is low in vitamin D. Infants who are nursing may need a vitamin D supplement, particularly if they do not go outdoors everyday.
Many people with a vitamin D deficiency may have no symptoms or
The symptoms of vitamin D deficiency can be vague ,Some symptoms of a deficit in vitamin D include:
- thinning or brittle bones, osteoporsis , or frequent bone fractures.
- muscle weakness, particularly if there is an unexplained change in muscle strength
- changes in mood, with people who have low vitamin D experiencing anxiety or depression.
- chronic pain, as vitamin D plays a key role in supporting bone, muscle, and cell health.
- high or rising blood pressure
- exhaustion, even with enough sleep
- decreased endurance
- unexplained infertility.
Dr Hajer Albadry