Twenty years ago, if you had mentioned that you were vitamin D deficient, the comment might well have been met with surprise. Now, depending where you live, you probably have a one in three chance that the person you are talking to has the same problem.
A study conducted by the Baker IDI Heart and Diabetes Institute in Australia in 1999-2000 and published in Clinical Endocrinology, showed that 31% of Australians between the ages of 25 and 95 were deficient in this vitamin. A 2009 report from the International Osteoporosis Foundation Working Group showed high rates of vitamin D deficiency throughout the world. In Europe rates varied markedly between countries but were generally high (eg. 45-56% of adults in the Netherlands were deficient in the vitamin). In North America around 29-35% of 20-49 year old were deficient. Rates in Japan were slightly better possibly due to high levels of fish consumption. Middle Eastern and Southern Asian countries had very high rates of hypovitaminosis D (in Bangladesh 38-50% of women were severely deficient, in Sri Lanka more than 40%).
Although a lack of this vitamin does not produce immediately obvious health effects, it can lead to a number of serious health issues, including osteoporosis, and the growing awareness of hypovitaminosis D has led to increased testing. As a result, the extent of the problem has become clearer. However, the problem appears to be worsening, with rickets reappearing as a disease of industrialised nations and a change in habits might be responsible.
Up to 90% of Vitamin D is manufactured in our bodies in response to sunlight, but with increased knowledge of the dangers of excessive UV radiation, people are actively reducing their sun exposure. In addition, the modern lifestyle with longer working hours and the widespread availability of computers and gaming devices lends itself to more time spent indoors. People are time-poor, so exercise often takes place in gyms rather than outdoors. Also with the large number of immigrants moving to countries with less sunshine, there is increased potential for hypovitaminosis D. Many of these immigrants are of darker skin colour and darker skin types can require between 3 and 6 times the sun exposure of those with fairer complexion.
Even a change in dietary habits may be a factor. Did your grandparents regularly consume cod liver oil? These days, many of us would turn up our noses at the thought, but cod liver oil is a natural source rich in both vitamin A and D, with Vitamin A also having many health benefits, so this might make our grandparents wiser than we realised! You can also take advantage of d-MAX supplements that come in 3 different strengths. Regular consumption of vitamin D for you and your family can keep you safe from this global epidemic.