Vitamin D Deficiency Risk

Vitamin D deficiency is a common problem in both children and adults. In fact, the National Center for Health Statistics estimates that up to 36 percent of Americans may be vitamin D deficient.

Vitamin D deficiency can have a number of causes, including a lack of exposure to sunlight and a number of health conditions. Fortunately, for many people, there are a few simple steps you can take to combat low vitamin D levels.

Are You at Risk of Low Vitamin D?

If you fall into one of the following groups, you may be at increased risk of vitamin D deficiency:

  • Older adults
  • People who are obese
  • People who don’t get much sun (including those that live in northern climates)
  • People who follow a strict vegetarian diet, or those who are lactose intolerant
  • People with celiac disease, Crohn’s disease or cystic fibrosis
  • People with dark skin.

Breastfed infants may also have low vitamin D. Vitamin D deficiency symptoms include muscle aches, bone pain and weakness. In babies, a soft skull or a slowness to sit or crawl may be signs of vitamin D deficiency.

Older Adults

Older adults need more vitamin D than younger people – up to 600 international units (IU) a day for those over 70. However, seniors, especially those who reside in assisted living facilities, often have low vitamin D. That’s because older adults often spend less time outside than younger people. The elderly may also have certain health conditions that make it more difficult for them to absorb and process vitamin D.

People Who Are Obese

Individuals who are obese may have trouble getting enough vitamin D. This is because more vitamin D is trapped in the body fat of obese people than in those who are thinner. People who’ve have gastric bypass surgery may also be vitamin D deficient.

Breastfed Babies

Babies who are breastfed may not be getting enough vitamin D. That’s because breast milk is not an adequate source of vitamin D, and infants also have relatively little sun exposure. Doctors often recommend that breastfed infants take a vitamin D supplement.

People with Dark Skin

Dark-skinned individuals do not absorb as much vitamin D from the sun as lighter-skinned individuals. That’s because increased amounts of melanin in the skin make it more difficult for your body to produce vitamin D from sunlight.

People with Certain Medical Conditions

Some diseases, such as Crohn’s disease, cystic fibrosis, celiac disease and certain liver conditions make it difficult for your body to absorb fat. This can, in turn, make it hard for your body to absorb vitamin D.

If you’re concerned that you might have low vitamin D, talk to your doctor about a vitamin D test. Testing vitamin D levels is the best way to determine if you are vitamin D deficient.

Fortunately, there are things you can do to address a possible vitamin deficiency. Among others, some of these include:

  • Eating vitamin D-rich foods
  • Getting more sun
  • Taking vitamin D supplements.


Marcus, M. (2008). Adults still risk vitamin D deficiency. Retrieved December 15, 2009 from the USA Today website:

Merck Home Manual. (n.d.). Vitamin D. Retrieved December 15, 2009 from the Merck website:

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 website: