Vitamin D Deficiency

As Minnesotans, we spend more time inside and less time outdoors in the sunshine due to our long winters. Limited sun exposure puts us at a higher risk of Vitamin D deficiency. In humans, synthesis of vitamin D depends on skin exposure to sunlight. Vitamin D is an important element to maintaining our optimal bone health. Vitamin D helps to absorb dietary calcium and phosporous from the intestines. It also suppresses the release of parathyroid hormone which can cause bone resorption. In addition to limited sun exposure, others who are at risk of Vitamin D deficiency include people with limited mobility, institutionalized, hospitalized, or nursing home patients, children, people who have undergone gastric bypass surgery, and others with kidney, liver, or gastrointestinal diseases such as Crohns and celiac disease that may impair absorption of Vitamin D. African Americans and other ethnicities with dark skin may also be at increased risk of deficiency.

It is not recommended to expose yourself to the sun or tanning beds to make up for a Vitamin D deficiency due to the risk of skin cancer. It is, however, important to assess your risk and your dietary intake of both Calcium and Vitamin D. With normal levels of Vitamin D, it is recommended that you receive 1000-1200mg of Calcium per day and 800IU of Vitamin D per day. If your Vitamin D level is low, you may need higher dose supplements. Maintaining adequate vitamin D levels will minimize the risk of reduced bone density (osteopenia or osteoporosis), and bone fractures with aging. Adequate Vitamin D may also benefit extraskeletal/muscular support, enhance the immune system, and affect glucose and lipid metabolism. There is also a growing body of research around the implications of Vitamin D deficiency and many types of cancer, including breast cancer. Not everyone needs to have a Vitamin D level checked, but your doctor can help assess your risk and whether or not your dietary and supplemental intake seems appropriate.

For additional information, visit the Up To Date patient website.