Vitamin D deficiency is one of the most common medical conditions in the world, with an estimated 1 billion people suffering from it. It is particularly prevalent among older adults, whose skin does not produce vitamin D as effectively when exposed to sunlight and whose kidneys are less able to convert it into its active form. Primary care doctor Mindy Lacey, Dra., has seen an increase in this condition in her patients who experience fatigue, depressive symptoms and bone problems. Vitamin D deficiency is more common in people with darker skin and those who wear clothing that covers most of their skin, especially in Middle Eastern countries.
Studies have found that between 30 and 50% of children and adults in the United States, Canada, Europe, Australia, New Zealand and Asia are deficient in vitamin D. Vitamin D is essential for the body to use calcium and phosphorus to build bones and maintain healthy tissues. It is important to note that there are several different metabolites of vitamin D with varying efficacy, half-life and risk of toxicity. Vitamin D supplementation has become more common among older people, particularly women who take multivitamin tablets regularly.
People with darker skin need to spend more time in the sun to produce the same amount of vitamin D as those with lighter skin. However, it is important to note that taking more than the recommended dose of vitamin D without consulting a healthcare provider can be dangerous. Work with your healthcare provider to determine if you need a vitamin supplement and how much you should take. The literature on vitamin D supplementation is still not conclusive, but it is clear that vitamin D deficiency is very prevalent. Several biological and environmental factors can increase the risk of developing a vitamin D deficiency, such as old age and the amount of melanin (pigment) in the skin.