It is estimated more than half the UK adult population is deficient in Vitamin D which is why Public Health England recommend all adults supplement with Vitamin D. However, if you are deficient in Vitamin D the symptoms are often subtle and non-specific, so it can be difficult to know if they are caused by inadequate levels or something else. Here we highlight the risks and potential signs of a deficiency in Vitamin D, and who's more at risk.
Risks of Vitamin D deficiency
A severe Vitamin D deficiency can weaken bones. In children this can result in Rickets, a condition that affects bone development and can lead to bone deformities. Adults can experience a similar condition, known as Osteomalacia or 'soft bones'.
These conditions cause muscular weakness, bone pain and fragile bones that are more prone to bone fractures. Some studies also suggest a deficiency in Vitamin D can lead to reduced cognitive function in adults and higher risk of cardiovascular disease (CVD).
Signs of Vitamin D deficiency
Frequent colds or infections
Vitamin D helps support the immune system, and one of the most common symptoms of deficiency is an increased frequency of catching colds or flu.
Bone and joint pain
There is evidence showing a connection between low Vitamin D levels and self-reported fatigue, and that a lack of Vitamin D can have a negative impact on your energy levels.(3) You may enjoy our nutritionists' blog 'Foods and tips to boost your energy'.
A low mood may indicate a deficiency of Vitamin D. Evidence shows that people with depression tend to have lower blood levels of Vitamin D than those without depression.(4)
Slow healing of wounds
A deficiency in Vitamin D may lead to wounds taking longer than normal to heal, for example after injury, infection or surgery.
Who's at-risk of Vitamin D deficiency?
Everyone during Autumn and Winter
When there is less sunlight, people who spend a lot of time indoors, who wear sunscreen when outdoors, and those who wear clothes that cover up most of their skin, are at risk of a deficiency in Vitamin D. In short, anyone with lower exposure to the sun is unlikely to get adequate Vitamin D from sunlight.
People with dark skin
Darker skin reduces the body’s ability to make Vitamin D from sunlight, so people with dark skin need more sunlight than people with lighter skin to produce the same amount of Vitamin D.
As we age, our skin is less efficient at making Vitamin D from sunlight, so adults aged over 60 years are more at risk of Vitamin D deficiency.
Being overweight or obese
Vitamin D is fat-soluble and can be absorbed into the fatty tissue beneath the skin, making it less available to the rest of the body.(4)
A restricted diet
It is very difficult to get the recommended amount of Vitamin D from food alone as there are few dietary sources. Vegan or plant-based diets that don’t include food sources such as fish, eggs, or foods fortified with Vitamin D increase the risk of inadequate levels.
Does my diet give me Vitamin D?
In today's world it is more important than ever to ensure you have adequate levels of Vitamin D3. The good news is Vitamin D deficiency can be fixed by any combination of eating more Vitamin D rich foods, spending more time in sunlight, and taking a Vitamin D3 supplement.
It's difficult to know what nutrients you're getting in your diet and how they support your body, so our nutritionists have created a free online Diet Profile that shows you - it only takes a few minutes.
Want to find out more? Discover the best food sources of Vitamin D here.
Discover our range of vegan vitamins & supplements
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- Knutsen et al (2010) Available: https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/20642395/
- Von Kanel et al (2014) Available: https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/24730754/
- Alavi et al (2015) Available: https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/26755458/
- SACN (2016) Vitamin D and Health. Available: https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/537616/SACN_Vitamin_D_and_Health_report.pdf