Vitamin D refers to a group of fat-soluble secosteroids responsible for enhancing intestinal absorption of calcium, iron, magnesium, phosphate, and zinc. Vitamin D from the diet or dermal synthesis from sunlight is biologically inactive; activation requires enzymatic conversion (hydroxylation) in the liver and kidney. A diet deficient in vitamin D in conjunction with inadequate sun exposure causes osteomalacia (or rickets when it occurs in children), which is a softening of the bones. All these sum up to vitamin D deficiency. In the developed world, this is a rare disease.
However, vitamin D deficiency has become a worldwide issue and remains common in children and adults. Deficiency results in impaired bone mineralization and bone damage which leads to bone-softening diseases.
If you work indoors and wear sunblock regularly, you’re doing a good job of protecting yourself from skin cancer, but chances are you could have some level of vitamin D deficiency.
Vitamin D deficiency is common among all age groups, and it’s estimated that 1 billion people worldwide have inadequate levels. If you’re having vague symptoms of tiredness, aches, and pains, or frequent infections and don’t know why it could be that you aren’t getting enough vitamin D.
Vitamin D is also important for calcium absorption, so some of the signs of not getting enough are related to insufficient calcium.
How widespread is this deficiency?
Before the year 2000, very few doctors ever considered the possibility that you might be vitamin D deficient.
But as the technology to measure vitamin D became inexpensive and widely available, more and more studies were done, and it became increasingly clear that vitamin D deficiency was rampant. For example, according to the leading vitamin D researchers:
- The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reported that 32 percent of children and adults throughout the US were vitamin D deficient — and this is grossly underestimated as they used vitamin D levels that were not consistent with optimal health.
- The National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey found that 50 percent of children aged one to five years, and 70 percent of children between the ages of six and 11, are deficient or insufficient in vitamin D
- Researchers estimate that 50 percent of the general population is at risk of vitamin D deficiency and insufficiency
Researchers have also noted that vitamin D deficiency is prevalent in adults of all ages who always wear sun protection (which blocks vitamin D production) or limit their outdoor activities. People with increased skin pigmentation (such as those whose ancestors are from Africa, the Middle East, or India) are also at risk, as are the elderly.
It’s estimated that over 95 percent of US senior citizens may be deficient in vitamin D. Not just because they tend to spend a lot of time indoors. It is also because they produce less in response to sun exposure (a person over the age of 70 produces about 30 percent less vitamin D than a younger person with the same sun exposure)
7 Signs you are vitamin deficient:
Whether you get touched or decide to pass, here are the top 5 signs that you might be deficient.
It’s often difficult to tell if newborns are deficient, but a sweaty forehead is one of the first noticeable symptoms. The same rings true for adults also, so if you’re “glowing” while your activity level remains steady, your temperature is close to 98.6°, and you’re in a moderate temperature environment, you may want to consider a vitamin D test.
Muscle strength isn’t just a matter of pumping iron. While having a vitamin D deficiency can leave you feeling overly exhausted, even when you’re able to get enough shut-eye, proper vitamin D intake helps you maintain power in every fiber of your being, whether you’re young or old. Harvard researchers have linked vitamin D supplementation with increased muscle control, resulting in 20% fewer falls among adults around 60 years old.
3Broken Bones as a sign of vitamin D deficiency
You stop building bone mass around age 30, and a lack of vitamin D can speed up or worsen osteoporosis symptoms, according to research published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. Fortification, first introduced around 1930, almost eradicated the weak bone condition rickets, however, it’s nearly impossible for anyone to satisfy vitamin D needs through diet. It requires a three-pronged attack: sun exposure, supplements, and food.
It’s often subtle, but some experience aches and pains in the bones, known as osteomalacia. Those who are diagnosed with arthritis or fibromyalgia may be shy of enough D as a deficiency can cause joints and muscles to ache, too. If your discomfort lasts for several weeks, ask your doctor if a vitamin D deficiency could be the cause—and if your treatment program should include the vitamin. Also worth noting: adequate vitamin D can prevent post-workout pain and increase the speed of muscle recovery.
5A down-in-the-dumps mood
A depression diagnosis is often actually linked to a shortage of vitamin D. While the jury is still out about why, the Vitamin D Council says that the mineral may work in the same brain areas—and impact the same hormones, like serotonin—as those that affect mood.
African Americans are at greater risk of vitamin D deficiency, because if you have dark skin, you may need as much as ten times more sun exposure to produce the same amount of vitamin D as a person with pale skin!
As Dr. Holick explained, your skin pigment acts as a natural sunscreen, so the more pigment you have, the more time you’ll need to spend in the sun to make adequate amounts of vitamin D.
7Overweight or Obese
Vitamin D is a fat-soluble, hormone-like vitamin, which means body fat acts as a “sink” by collecting it. If you’re overweight or obese, you’re therefore likely going to need more vitamin D than a slimmer person — and the same holds true for people with higher body weights due to muscle mass.
There can be more signs to this weakness. You should always consult your doctor in case of any weird or unusual signs that occur, which could be symptoms of a deficiency.