Vitamin D deficiency is one of the most common medical conditions worldwide. Our latest blog sheds light on this growing but widely unknown health issue, including the key warning signs and how to prevent it.
Vitamin D deficiency is one of the most common medical conditions worldwide. An estimated 1 billion people suffer from serious vitamin D deficiency, while up to half of the global population do not have adequate levels of vitamin D.
Our latest blog sheds light on this growing but widely unknown health issue, including the key warning signs and what you can do to prevent it.
Vitamin D is important as it helps our bodies absorb calcium which is vital for bone and muscle health. A lack of vitamin D can lead to bone conditions such as rickets in children and osteomalacia in adults.
Our main source of vitamin D comes from the sun which is why it is also known as the "˜sunshine vitamin'. Our bodies produce vitamin D when our skin is exposed to sunlight.
Certain groups are at greater risk of vitamin D deficiency. These include:
Surprisingly Vitamin D deficiency is highly prevalent in parts of the world that get a lot of sunshine, including Asia, Africa and the Middle East. This may be a result of the very hot climate which prevents people from spending much time outside or because of cultural practices which mean the skin is often covered.
Many people with vitamin D deficiency are unaware of their condition. This is because the symptoms are often subtle and non-specific. They include:
Sunlight: The best way to boost your vitamin D levels is by increasing the exposure of your skin to sunlight. Ideally you should aim to spend 15-20 minutes per day in natural sunlight. Yes you heard it here first - you now have a legitimate excuse to book that beach holiday!
Diet: You can also get more vitamin D by eating foods that naturally contain this vitamin. These include egg yolks, fatty fish such as salmon, tuna and mackerel, beef liver, mushrooms and fortified foods (e.g. some cereals and dairy products).
Get tested: If you think you may have a vitamin D deficiency or be at higher risk, then you should ask your doctor about getting your blood levels measured. Vitamin D deficiency is defined as having less than 30 nmol/L in a serum concentration of 25(OH)D. Many people may have low levels of vitamin D from time to time (sometimes called vitamin D insufficiency) but not a medical deficiency.
Supplements: Those with serious vitamin D deficiencies can consider taking supplements. However it's important not to overdo it, as taking excessive amounts of vitamin D can cause a build up of calcium in the body and lead to other health problems. It's also important to check whether your health insurance covers you for vitamin D supplements. International health plans only cover costs for those with a genuine vitamin D deficiency, not for vitamin D insufficiency as this is extremely common.