What Causes Vitamin D Deficiency? Am I in Danger?

Considering that Vitamin D is essential for human body, understanding and knowing Vitamin D deficiency causes may prevent us from some health probelms. There are several factors that cause vitamin d deficiency. They are lack of sunlight exposure (UVB), dark skin, obesity, kidney and liver problems, older age, pregnancy, abuse of alcohol, and taking certain medications.


Lack of sunlight exposure. Human body can produce vitamin D with the help of energy from ultraviolet rays in sunlight. Once UVB rays hit the skin, some type of cholesterol that resides under the skin will be converted into vitamin D3 (an inactive form of Vitamin D). Vitamin D3 is then stored in the liver before being converted into an active form in the kidneys. Therefore, sunlight is essential to make vitamin D. People with insufficient exposure to sunlight are at risk of being vitamin d deficient. They include:

  • Night worker.
  • Disable people who can't go outside very much.
  • Institutionalized people.
  • People who rarely go outside or who go outside but use sun protection with SPF of 8 or greater.
  • People who live in the area with highly polluted sky.
  • People who live in a cloudy or foggy place.
  • People who live in regions located at a latitude of greater than 40°S or greater than 40°N.

Dark skin. Dark skin has a pigment called melanin. The darker the skin the more melanin it has. Melanin acts as sun-blocker that prevents UV rays from making contact with your cholesterol. Hence, individuals with dark skin have a great difficulty producing vitamin D than do lighter-skinned individuals.

Obesity. Obesity can also cause vitamin D deficiency. People with obesity may produce vitamin D3 smoothly. The problem is, it is very hard for vitamin D3 to enter bloodstream and being distributed because the fatty tissue under the skin is very thick.

Kidney and liver diseases. Vitamin D can be useful to human body only in an active form. The inactive vitamin D (Vitamin D3) is sent to the liver where it is converted to calcidiol and stored. When our body runs out of active vitamin D, calcidiol then gets transferred to the kidneys where it is converted into calcitriol. Calcitriol is the active form of vitamin D and performs many functions in various part of human body. So, if you have a liver or kidneys disease than you are in danger of being vitamin D deficient.

Older age. There are three reasons why elder people are likely to have very low level of vitamin D. First, our body's ability to produce and activate vitamin D decreases fourfold as we got older than 60 years old. Second, elder people drink little or no fortified milk (the dietary source of vitamin d). And third, elder people don't go outside very much, and when they do, most of them use sun-blocking agent with SPF of 8 or greater.

Pregnancy. vitamin D deficiency is extremely common among pregnant women. Vitamin D is very important in fetus development. But, unborn babies cannot synthesize it so they get their own supply completely from their mother's. It is very recommended for pregnant woman to increase their daily intake of vitamin D (after being consulted with a doctor, of course).

Abuse of alcohol. Alcohol inhibits vitamin D absorption in pancreas and intestines. Excessive drinking of alcohol can also damage your liver, thus reduce your ability to activate vitamin D.

Certain medications. Some medications disrupt vitamin D metabolism and activation.

  • Anticonsulvant drugs interfere with vitamin D metabolism.
  • Cholesterol-lowering drugs such as Colestipol and Cholestyramine hinder the absorption of vitamin D.
  • Drugs for allergies, asthma, and arthritis can reduce vitamin D level in your blood.

So, there you go. Those are some common causes of vitamin D deficiency. If you have at least one of those conditions, it is very recommended to take oral vitamin D. But, you should consult with your doctor first as vitamin D can be toxic if you eat it too much.

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