How did Vitamin D deficiency grow into epidemic proportions? We have all been taught that a little sunlight everyday allows the body to make its own vitamin D.

Vitamin D deficiency has been associated with increased risks of rickets, osteoporosis, and fractures in adults. It has also been associated with increased risk of common cancers, autoimmune diseases, hypertension and infectious diseases.

The major source of vitamin D3 in humans is still the sun and anything than decreases the amount of the suns UVB radiation penetrating the skin will cause a deficiency.

What will decrease absorption? Melanin in the skin, the stuff that causes pigmentation, will decrease UVB absorption. Similarly, a sunscreen with a protection of 15 will absorb 99% of UVB. Finally, our practice of covering the body to protect us from the sun, well, it causes vitamin D deficiency.

Studies show that as many as 50% of children and adults are at risk of vitamin D deficiency. There is also a precursor molecule in the skin required to make vitamin D3 and this precursor declines by approximately 75% by the age of 70 years old.

But, in my opinion, the biggest reason we are seeing an epidemic in vitamin D3 deficiency today is the growing epidemic of obesity in America.

Vitamin D3 is fat soluble and readily absorbed by fat cells. Studies have shown that obesity is highly associated with vitamin D deficiency.

So, the major factors causing vitamin D3 deficiency include: Obesity,

  • Dark skin,
  • Sun block,
  • Sun protective clothing, and
  • Certain medications including seizure and steroid medications.

What are the major effects of vitamin D3 deficiency?

  • Growth retardation in children,
  • Muscle weakness,
  • Osteoporosis,
  • Cancer including colon, prostate, breast, pancreas, esophagus and lymphoma.
  • Diabetes
  • Hypertension

We have known since the 1980’s that living at higher latitudes increased the risk of cancer. At higher latitudes the body’s formation of vitamin D3 is reduced.

It is also known that providing vitamin D3 will reduce the risk of several cancers in men. It has been demonstrated that women receiving 1100 units of D3 and 1000 mg of calcium for 4 years after menopause had a 60% reduction of developing cancer.

Studies show that adding 2000 units of vitamin D3 to children living at high latitudes had a 78% reduced risk of developing diabetes over the course of 31 years. Other studies show similar reductions in hypertension, multiple sclerosis and rheumatoid arthritis.

Finally, it has even been shown that vitamin D deficiency can contribute to schizophrenia and depression.

Preventing Vitamin D Deficiency

When you have your next blood test make sure you have a vitamin D level performed. You want your level between 30 ng/ml to 100 ng/ml. How much vitamin D should you take? According to the Institute of Medicine in November 2010, they recommend:

  • Age 0-1 year: 400 to 1,000 IU daily
  • Age 1-18 years: 600 to 1,000 IU daily
  • All adults over age 18: 1,500 to 2,000 IU daily
  • Pregnant or nursing women under age 18: 600 to 1,000 IU daily
  • Pregnant or nursing women over age 18: 1,500 to 2,000 IU daily

If you are obese you may need to take two to three times the usual dose of vitamin D. In my personal clinical practice I routinely recommend 2,000 units daily to all my adult patients and monitor the blood results. If you have trouble remembering to take medications you can use 10,000 IU once a week or 50,000 IU once a month.

Your doctor and friend,

James Krider, MD

Another interesting vitmain d deficiency artcle.