Wondering if you might have Vitamin D Deficiency? Chances are pretty good that you do! Depending on how one defines it (there is currently a debate in the scientific community), about forty percent of the American population is deficient in Vitamin D. If you have certain risk factors, such as obesity, advanced age, gluten intolerance, dark skin, or limited exposure to sunlight, the chances may be even greater.
Most people know that Vitamin D is important for the maintenance of strong bones and teeth, but did you know that people deficient in Vitamin D are also prone to muscle weakness and falls? And that’s not all!
Obesity is associated with low Vitamin D levels. So are certain cancers, asthma, high blood pressure, depression, and diabetes.
Ever wonder why some viruses, such as Influenza (the flu), colds, and perhaps even COVID-19 are more common in the winter months? It is thought that Vitamin D plays an important role in our immune system. Since Vitamin D levels are dependent in part on how much exposure we have to sunlight, levels typically drop in the winter, as the days get shorter, weakening of our immune systems. This may make it easier for the viruses to make us sick.
So, should we all mega-dose on Vitamin D? If only it were that simple! It turns out that too much Vitamin D is associated with an increased risk for brittle bones (the exact thing doctors are most trying to prevent), stroke, and certain kinds of cancer!
So, either having a little too much Vitamin D or not quite enough could have serious consequences. This is why the decision whether or not to supplement should be driven by laboratory values, and why careful monitoring is required.
- Cohen, MD, Adi, et al, “Clinical manifestations, diagnosis, and treatment of osteomalacia”, UpToDate (Dec 2019).
- Dawson-Hughes, MD, Bess, “Vitamin D deficiency in adults...”, UpToDate (May 2021).
- Misra, MD, Madhusmita, “Vitamin D insufficiency and deficiency in children and adolescents”, UpToDate (Jun 2020).