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Are You At Risk for Vitamin D Deficiency?


Updated May 19, 2008

As many as half to two-thirds of women in the menopausal age group are deficient in vitamin D. If you fall into one of the groups most at risk for this deficiency, talk to your medical provider about ways to boost your vitamin D intake.

Older in Age

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As we age, our skin is less able to synthesize vitamin D from sunlight, and our kidneys are less able to process the vitamin into a usable form. Combined with a tendency to stay indoors, aging can lead to very low levels of vitamin D. Older adults, especially those age 60 and above, usually need to supplement their intake of vitamin D to get enough to protect bone health.

Lack of Sun Exposure

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Women who cover themselves from head to toe, whether for religious or cultural reasons or by preference, eliminate the best source of vitamin D -- the sun. If you keep yourself covered, work inside, rarely going out, or if you live in a northern latitude location, such as New England or Alaska, chances are pretty good that you are not getting enough vitamin D. Consider using a vitamin D supplement if your medical provider agrees.

Too Many Pounds

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Being overweight is associated with much lower levels of vitamin D. This is probably due to the tendency of fat cells to hang on to the vitamin. If you are overweight, it's important to be aware that this may be "holding up" your vitamin D. Losing weight releases the vitamin D back into your system. As you work to shed the pounds, you may want to boost your vitamin D with supplements or D-rich foods, such as fortified milk products and cereals.

Dark Skin

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People with dark skin have more melanin, which reduces the skin's ability to make vitamin D from sunlight. Although they are less likely to get a sunburn, they are also less effective at turning sunshine into vitamin D, leaving them at more risk for a vitamin deficiency. If you have dark skin, talk to your doctor about whether you might need a vitamin D supplement.

Medical Conditions That Interfere with Fat Absorption

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Certain medical conditions cause fat malabsorption, which interferes with your ability to use vitamin D. There needs to be a certain amount of fat in the intestine to absorb and metabolize vitamin D, even when you have been in the sunlight. People with conditions such as Crohn's disease, celiac disease, some types of liver disease and cystic fibrosis, as well as those who have undergone surgery to remove parts of the stomach and intestine (including weight loss surgeries), should talk to a doctor about the need to get vitamin D.

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