Vitamin D deficiency is now recognized as a global pandemic. As one study in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition states, “The major cause of vitamin D deficiency is the lack of appreciation that sun exposure in moderation is the major source of vitamin D for most humans.”(1)
Because very few foods contain vitamin D naturally – and vitamin D-fortified foods often don’t include enough vitamin D to satisfy a person’s dietary requirements – supplementing with vitamin D is one of the best ways to get the vitamin D you need.
The Risks Of Vitamin D Deficiency
Vitamin D deficiency can cause rickets in children, and precipitates and exacerbate osteoporosis and the painful condition osteopenia. It has also been associated with an increased risk of common cancers, hypertension, infectious diseases and autoimmune diseases.
Causes of Vitamin D Deficiency
Vitamin D deficiency is caused by a lack of sun exposure, which is all to common in our modern society. But even in areas where people spend significant time outdoors, people run the risk of becoming deficient in this important vitamin. Those with darker skin are particularly at risk, as melanin can inhibit the amount of vitamin D absorbed from UV rays.
Vitamin D And HIV
A new study has associated vitamin D deficiency with HIV/AIDS progression and mortality.
“Seasonal decline in UVB radiation, darkly pigmented skin, low nutritional vitamin D intake, and genetic variation can increase risk of deficiency,” the study explains.
“In two ethnically distinct groups of young adults in Cape Town we found high prevalence of seasonal vitamin D deficiency resulting from inadequate UVB exposure. The deficiency was associated with increased permissiveness of blood cells to HIV-1 infection, which was reversed by vitamin D3 supplementation.”
“Vitamin D may be a simple, cost-effective intervention, particularly in resource-poor settings, to reduce HIV-1 risk and disease progression,” the study concludes.(2)
Other Benefits Of Vitamin D Supplementation
Vitamin D supplementation has been associated with reduced rates of cancer, cardiovascular disease, multiple sclerosis, rheumatoid arthritis, and type 1 diabetes.
“Although chronic excessive exposure to sunlight increases the risk of nonmelanoma skin cancer, the avoidance of all direct sun exposure increases the risk of vitamin D deficiency, which can have serious consequences,” one paper explains.(3)
Treating Vitamin D Deficiency
Vitamin D deficiency can be treated easily with vitamin D supplementation. One study explains that while the demarkations between vitamin D deficiency, insufficiency, and optimal concentration are controversial, “vitamin D in doses of 800-5000 IU/day improve musculoskeletal health… In patients with documented vitamin D deficiency, a cumulative dose of at least 600,000 IU administered over several weeks appears to be necessary to replenish vitamin D stores.”(4)
If you’re experiencing signs of vitamin D deficiency – bone pain, muscle weakness, and fatigue – or you are HIV-positive, consider getting your Vitamin D levels checked out by your doctor. Chances are if you are deficient, supplementation can restore your levels in a matter of weeks.