Vitamin D Deficiency Adults

Getting adequate amounts of vitamin D is important for overall health and wellness, yet many adults are deficient in vitamin D. Up to 36 percent of people in the United States don’t get enough vitamin D, according to the National Center for Health Statistics.

What is vitamin D? Vitamin D is an important nutrient that helps your body absorb calcium and regulates levels of phosphates in your blood. Medical experts recommend getting between 200 and 600 international units (IU) of vitamin D each day depending on your age (older adults generally need more than younger adults).

Vitamin D Deficiency Symptoms

The tricky thing about vitamin D deficiency is that some people who are deficient show any symptoms. However, some of the more common signs of deficiency of vitamin D in adults include:

  • Bone pain
  • Muscle aches
  • Weakness.

Health Problems Caused by Vitamin D Deficiency

In adults, low vitamin D can lead to a condition called osteomalacia, or a softening of the bones. Low vitamin D is also linked to other bone-related diseases, including osteoporosis and arthritis.

In addition, getting adequate amounts of vitamin D may also help reduce your risk of the following conditions:

  • Asthma
  • Breast, colon and prostate cancer
  • Diabetes
  • Heart disease.

Although medical studies are ongoing, the exact connection between some of these conditions and vitamin D is not yet known.

Causes of Vitamin D Deficiency

Not getting enough sun exposure is a major cause of low vitamin D levels in adults. Increases in both the amount of time spent indoors and the use of sunscreen may be to blame for rising incidence of vitamin D deficiency in adults.

In addition to a general lack of sun exposure, certain groups may be at risk of vitamin deficiency, including people who:

  • Are lactose intolerant or follow a strict vegetarian diet
  • Are obese, or have had gastric bypass surgery
  • Are older
  • Have dark skin
  • Have trouble absorbing vitamin D, such as those with celiac disease, Crohn’s disease or cystic fibrosis
  • Live in northern climates.

Preventing Vitamin D Deficiency

There are several things you can do to prevent or address vitamin D deficiency:

  • Eat food rich in vitamin D. There are relatively few foods that are good natural sources of vitamin D. However, tuna, mackerel, salmon, cod liver oil, egg yolks, cheese and beef liver all contain some vitamin D.
  • Get more sun. Spending more time in the sun is the easiest and most efficient way to get enough vitamin D.
  • Take a vitamin D supplement. However, be sure to talk to your doctor before adding a vitamin D supplement to your diet. Extremely high levels of vitamin D in your blood can be toxic.

Resources

Marcus, M. (2008). Adults still risk vitamin D deficiency. Retrieved December 15, 2009 from the USA Today Web site: http://www.usatoday.com/news/health/2008-06-16-vitamin-d-side_N.htm.

MedlinePlus (2008). Rickets. Retrieved December 15, 2009 from the MedlinePlus Web site: http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/ency/article/000344.htm.

National Institutes of Health, Office of Dietary Supplements. (2009). Dietary Supplement Fact Sheet: Vitamin D. Retrieved December 15, 2009 from the National Institutes of Health Web site: http://ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/vitamind.asp.

WebMD. (n.d.). Vitamin D deficiency. Retrieved December 15, 2009 from the WebMD Web site: http://www.webmd.com/diet/vitamin-d-deficiency.