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Vitamin D deficiency - who is at risk?

Vitamin D deficiency increases risk for cancer and diabetes. Find out if you are deficient!

Written by Sandhya Raghavan |Updated : June 20, 2017 10:16 AM IST

What makes your bones and teeth stronger, wards off infections and diseases, and keeps you cheerful? It's Vitamin D, quite rightly called the "Sunshine Vitamin." This fat-soluble vitamin is known to ward off cancers, autoimmunity, heart disease and type 2 diabetes. It is estimated that around 50 percent of the human population, all around the world is deficient in Vitamin D and the reasons could range from low exposure to sunlight to faulty lifestyle choices. Find out if you belong to any of these vitamin-deficient groups.

Infants: In babies, Vitamin D deficiency is seen in infants who are the only breast fed. Vitamin D requirements cannot be met by human milk alone especially if the mother is low on the vitamin herself. So she has to fortify her Vitamin D intake so that her child also gets enough through her breast milk. [1]

Senior citizens: Seniors over the age of 50 are at risk for Vitamin D deficiency because of their ageing skin. When the skin ages, it stops being as efficient as it used to be before and does a poor job of absorbing sunlight and producing Vitamin D. Older people also tend to spend a lot of time indoors, which increases their risk for deficiency. This is probably why seniors face bone fragility issues. [2]

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People who stay indoors: This one's a no-brainer, but limited sun exposure can make one Vitamin D deficient. If you are used to wearing long robes due to religious reasons, or if your job demands you to suit up completely or work in the shade, you could be vitamin deficient. Also, reaching for the sunscreen every time you step out may not be a smart thing to do. [3]

People with darker skin tones: Darker skin means more melanin in the epidermal layers. And this means reduced ability to produce Vitamin D from sunlight. This can be fixed by eating a Vitamin D-rich diet or having supplements to match up to the RDA levels. [2]

Obese or people who have undergone gastric bypass: Having a Body Mass Index of more than 30 is associated with low Vitamin D levels. More the amount of fat in the body, more the chances of the fat trapping the vitamin and restricting its release into the blood. In people who have undergone gastric surgery for weight loss, the upper small intestine where Vitamin D is absorbed is bypassed. [4]

People who have trouble absorbing fat: Since Vitamin D is a fat-soluble vitamin. So unless there is some fat in your gut, you won't be able to absorb dietary Vitamin D. So, some people who fat absorption problems associated with liver diseases, cystic fibrosis and Crohn's disease may end up being Vitamin D deficient. [5]


1. Wagner, C. L., & Greer, F. R. (2008). Prevention of rickets and vitamin D deficiency in infants, children, and adolescents. Pediatrics, 122(5), 1142-1152.

2. Del Valle, H. B., Yaktine, A. L., Taylor, C. L., & Ross, A. C. (Eds.). (2011). Dietary reference intakes for calcium and vitamin D. National Academies Press.

3. Webb, A. R., Kline, L., & Holick, M. F. (1988). Influence of season and latitude on the cutaneous synthesis of vitamin D3: exposure to winter sunlight in Boston and Edmonton will not promote vitamin D3 synthesis in human skin. The journal of clinical endocrinology & metabolism, 67(2), 373-378.

4. Nair, R., & Maseeh, A. (2012). Vitamin D: The" sunshine" vitamin. Journal of Pharmacology and Pharmacotherapeutics, 3(2), 118.

5. Malone, M. (2008). Recommended nutritional supplements for bariatric surgery patients. Annals of Pharmacotherapy, 42(12), 1851-1858.

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