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Q: Why do so many people need Vitamin D supplements & what are the symptoms of Vitamin D deficiency?

A: Vitamin D deficiency is on the rise in the United States, with greater than 40% of adults in America estimated to be lacking in the “sunshine” vitamin. With that said, many physicians now include vitamin D levels in routine bloodwork.

Reason Vitamin D levels may be low:

  • In general, foods naturally high in vitamin D are limited. That is why many foods are fortified with the vitamin.
  • Fortified milk has always been a great source of vitamin D, but people are not consuming as much milk as they once did.
  • Decreased exposure to sunlight reduces your body’s natural ability to manufacture vitamin D, which has been dubbed the “sunshine vitamin.” As such, people living in darker, colder parts of the country and elderly individuals are at higher at risk for developing a vitamin D deficiency due to limited time spent outside. Latinos and African Americans are also at risk for lower vitamin D levels. Higher amounts of melatonin found in darker skin reduces the body’s ability to produce vitamin D from sunlight.
  • Vitamin D-deficient diets are associated with milk allergy, lactose intolerance and strict vegetarian diets.
  • Individuals with celiac disease, gastric bypass or other intestinal disorders are also at higher risk for developing vitamin deficiencies. People taking certain medications (such as long-term use of medications treating heartburn, acid reflux and constipation) or those individuals taking corticosteroids may present with lower vitamin D levels. Talk to your pharmacist if you have a concern about any of your medications.
  • Individuals with chronic liver or kidney disease are at high risk for vitamin D deficiency since both organs are needed to convert vitamin D to the active form.

Symptoms of Vitamin D deficiency may include:

  • Frequent illness, fatigue and chronic pain (often in the bones) and weakness
  • Depression
  • Gut Issues
  • Broken bones and non-healing wounds
  • Head sweating
  • Hair loss

The National Institutes of Health recommends that adults between 19 and 70 years old get at least 600 international units (IUs) of vitamin D per day. To find out more about Vitamin D, visit Nutrition 101 and Spotlight on Taste.

Have another Nutrition question? Ask our Dietitian.

Calcium Vitamin D and Your Health
Jill Kwasny

Registered Dietitian