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Are you vitamin D deficient?
More than one-third of people worldwide have insufficient levels of vitamin D, which has been linked to a decreased risk of osteoporosis, cancer and cardiovascular disease, researchers report in a new study appearing in the British Journal of Nutrition.
In a systematic review of 200 population-based vitamin D studies from 44 countries, principal investigator Dr. Kristina Hoffmann of Heidelberg University’s Mannheim Institute of Public Health (MIPH) and colleagues found that 37.3 percent of the studies reported mean values of the nutrient deemed inadequate by most health authorities worldwide.
Dr. Hoffman’s team used continuous values for 25-hydroxyvitamin D or 25(OH)D in an effort to improve comparisons of the review. While the authors reported finding a high degree of variability between various reports at the population level, they said that over one-third of them reported mean serum 25(OH)D values below 50 nmol/l.
The highest vitamin D levels were found in North America, while only a limited number of studies for Latin America were available for review, they explained. They also reported observing age-related differences for the Asia-Pacific and Middle East regions, but not elsewhere, and added that the substantial heterogeneity between the studies in each region made it impossible for them to make conclusions regarding vitamin D levels at the population level.
Furthermore, the researchers conclude that their study – which is reportedly one of the first to focus on vitamin D status patterns worldwide and key population subgroups – discovered the need for research designs that minimise potential sources of bias and lead to better understanding of those status patterns in key population subgroups.
“Low levels of vitamin D have a potentially serious impact on health, particularly on bone and muscle health,” the International Osteoporosis Foundation (IOF) explained in a statement.
The organisation, which is dedicated to the prevention, diagnosis and treatment of osteoporosis and related musculoskeletal diseases, explained that vitamin D deficiency can cause rickets in children, as well as osteomalacia, osteopenia, osteoporosis and risk of fracture in adults.
Studies have also linked the condition to increased risk for cancer and cardiovascular diseases, they noted.
“Given the global increase in the number of seniors and the almost fourfold increase in hip fractures due to osteoporosis since 1990, public health officials must address the impact of inadequate vitamin D status on fracture risk and overall health in their ageing populations as well as on children and adolescents,” said IOF CEO Judy Stenmark. “IOF urges further research as well as public health measures that would help to improve vitamin D status in these high-risk population groups.”