Vitamin D deficiency syndrome is very common across the population of urban cities. It is also known as the lifestyle disease. Vitamin D is the most important micronutrient which is commonly known as Ergocalciferol. It is responsible for maintaining bone, teeth, muscle and intestinal health. It causes rare bone disease rickets in children (1, 2). 

Types of Vitamin D

  • Vitamin D2 (Ergocalciferol): Obtained from dietary vegetable sources and oral supplements
  • Vitamin D3 (Cholecalciferol): Obtained primarily from skin exposure to ultraviolet B (UVB) radiation in sunlight

What is Vitamin D Deficiency?

Vitamin D deficiency is the health condition caused by long-term inadequacy of Vitamin D in human body. It may be caused by inadequate intake of Vitamin D rich diet, sunlight, insufficient production and malabsorption due preexisting health conditions like gastrointestinal, renal and liver disorders. (1, 2, 3).

Functions of Vitamin D

Vitamin D water soluble micronutrient which are present in many food items however, it is also produced in the body in presence of ultraviolet B radiations.  This hormone is essential for maintain the strong bone structure, absorption of calcium in body. It prevents the remodelling of bone due to osteoporosis, osteoblasts and osteoclasts. It also prevents rickets in children (3).

Causes of Vitamin D Deficiency

The condition of Vitamin D deficiency can be developed due to various factors. Some of the major cause have been illustrated below:

  • Inadequate Diet: The most common cause of Vitamin D deficiency across the globe is our diet. We often consume foods which are poor in essential vitamins and minerals such as Vitamin D.
  • Sunlight: Vitamin D3 which is primarily produced in presence of ultraviolet B radiation in our body and ingestion of vitamin D rich diet.  
  • GI Disorders: Vitamin D deficiency disorders can also be caused by malabsorption. The inadequate absorption of Vitamin D can occur due to presence of preexisting health conditions like gastrointestinal disorders.  It also affects the absorption of calcium in our body.

Symptoms of Vitamin D Deficiency 

The common symptoms of Vitamin D deficiency include (1,4):

  • Getting frequent infections
  • Tiredness
  • Fatigue
  • Constipation
  • Memory loss
  • Back Pain
  • Bone Loss
  • Hair Loss
  • Obesity
  • Brittle bones
  • Misshapen bones
  • Rickets

Health Risks due to Vitamin D Deficiency

  • Osteoporosis: Severe calcium deficiency compromises bone health and makes it susceptible to fractures or break even you sneeze. In this condition individual loses lot of bone and make it porous.
  • Rickets: Severe vitamin D deficiency causes very rare disease rickets in children in which bone become soft and bend. It can also happen when calcium or phosphorus levels are too low. 
  • Immune System Disorders: Vitamin D deficiency affects the immunity system. A person with severe deficiency will frequently get infected. 
  • Cardiovascular Disorders (CVD): Vitamin D deficiency causes high blood pressure which affect the overall heart health and causes severe damage in long term.
  • Obesity: Vitamin D works with parathyroid glands which balance the calcium in the blood by communicating with the kidneys, gut and skeleton. Its deficiency causes improper functioning of digestive system and leads to obesity (1).

In addition to this vitamin D deficiency can cause several types of cancer, multiple sclerosis, diabetes and fall in older people (1).

Tests for Vitamin D Deficiency

There are several tests available for the diagnosis of Vitamin D deficiency in our body out of which blood test is the most widely used method of diagnosis. In general, we don’t need to do any preparations for the test but in case you are on Vitamin D supplements you need to stop before the test (4). 

  • Vitamin D Blood Test: Blood test for Vitamin D measures the concentrations of vitamin D2 and vitamin D3. This is the most accurate test for the identification of vitamin deficiency. 
  • Microscopic Diagnosis: Calcium deficiency syndromes like osteoporosis is identified under the microscope. It this diagnosis, we identify the honeycomb structure of porous bone. The degree of porosity indicates the severity of osteoporosis.

Remedies of Vitamin D Deficiency 

  • Vitamin D Supplements: If you are diagnosed with severe Vitamin D deficiency, you should consider medical supplements under supervision of doctors. As higher Vitamin D may lead to deadly health condition.
  • Vitamin D Rich Diet: Vitamin D rich food items will help in minimising the Vitamin D deficiency. Some of the Vitamin D rich food items are like Salmon, tuna, mackerel, fish oil, milk, cheese, mushroom, egg yolk, beef liver, soy drinks, orange juice.
  • Fortified Food Items: Several agricultural lands across the globe are poor in micronutrients which will serve nutrient deficient food produces. Fortified seeds will help in providing nutrient rich agriculture produce.
  • Adequate Sunlight: Sunlight helps in formation of vitamin D in our skin. We should expose ourselves in sunlight at least for 15-30 minutes daily.

Prevention of Vitamin D Deficiency

It is often said that “Prevention is better than Cure” and indeed this is very much true with reference to micronutrient deficiencies. Vitamin D deficiency can be prevented through consumption of Vitamin D rich diet.

Food items rich in Vitamin D:

  • Salmon
  • Tuna
  • Mackerel
  • Fish oil
  • Milk and milk products
  • Cheese
  • Mushroom
  • Egg yolk
  • Beef liver
  • Soy drinks
  • Orange juice
  • Breakfast cereals
  • Fortified food items
  • Enough Sunlight

Adequate Intake (>19 yrs.):

Simple way to prevent Vitamin D deficiencies is to maintain recommended daily intakes. The recommended daily intake of Vitamin D for an adult is 600-800 IU. It may be higher in case of pregnant and lactating women.

Vitamin D is very important fat-soluble vitamin essential for maintenance of healthy bone, teeth, muscle and digestion. It plays key role in the absorption of calcium in our body. It prevents the remodelling of bone due to osteoporosis, osteoblasts and osteoclasts. It also prevents rickets in children

Although Vitamin D deficiency has several ill effects, it can be treated with the right consultation and medical supplements as prescribed by medical experts. The best possible way to avoid these complications by consuming adequate amount of Vitamin D as per RDA through various Vitamin D rich diet.