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Vitamin D Deficiency

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Causes of Vitamin D Deficiency continued...

Your kidneys cannot convert vitamin D to its active form. As people age, their kidneys are less able to convert vitamin D to its active form, thus increasing their risk of vitamin D deficiency.

Your digestive tract cannot adequately absorb vitamin D. Certain medical problems, including Crohn's disease, cystic fibrosis, and celiac disease, can affect your intestine's ability to absorb vitamin D from the food you eat.

You are obese. Vitamin D is extracted from the blood by fat cells, altering its release into the circulation. People with a body mass index of 30 or greater often have low blood levels of vitamin D.

Tests for Vitamin D Deficiency

The most accurate way to measure how much vitamin D is in your body is the 25-hydroxy vitamin D blood test. A level of 20 nanograms/milliliter to 50 ng/mL is considered adequate for healthy people. A level less than 12 ng/mL indicates vitamin D deficiency.

Treatment for Vitamin D Deficiency

Treatment for vitamin D deficiency involves getting more vitamin D -- through diet and supplements. Although there is no consensus on vitamin D levels required for optimal health -- and it likely differs depending on age and health conditions -- a concentration of less than 20 nanograms per milliliter is generally considered inadequate, requiring treatment.

Guidelines from the Institute of Medicine increased the recommended dietary allowance (RDA) of vitamin D to 600 international units (IU) for everyone ages 1-70, and raised it to 800 IU for adults older than age 70 to optimize bone health. The safe upper limit was also raised to 4,000 IUs.

If you don't spend much time in the sun or always are careful to cover your skin (sunscreen inhibits vitamin D production), you should speak to your doctor about taking a vitamin D supplement, particularly if you have risk factors for vitamin D deficiency.

WebMD Medical Reference

Reviewed by Elaine Magee, MPH, RD on May 24, 2014
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