Vitamin D deficiency leaves millions at risk of numerous diseases and
19 July 2007
Vitamin D deficiency is one of the most commonly
unrecognized and easily preventable medical conditions, according to Dr
Michael F. Holick in a review article published in The New England Journal
The body produces vitamin D by exposure to sunlight. This means that
sensible sun exposure will be beneficial to millions.
The article explores the nature of vitamin D deficiency and concludes it
to be one of the most commonly unrecognized medical conditions, and leaves
millions at risk of developing not only osteoporosis and fractures but also
numerous serious and often fatal diseases, including several common cancers,
autoimmune diseases, infectious diseases and heart disease.
Dr. Holick estimates that there are over one billion people worldwide at
risk for vitamin D deficiency, with 30-50% of children and adults in the
United States at high risk for this potentially life threatening condition.
According to Holick, the effects of this condition can be both immediate and
far-reaching for women and children. For example, pregnant women, even when
taking a prenatal vitamin, are still at high risk for preeclampsia, a
condition characterized by hypertension, fluid retention and protein loss in
Low levels of calcium and vitamin D in utero and in childhood may prevent
the maximum deposition of calcium in the skeleton. Vitamin D deficiency in
early life may increase the risk of developing serious chronic diseases such
as type 1 diabetes, multiple sclerosis and rheumatoid arthritis.
adults, recent evidence has shown that vitamin D deficiency can put an
individual at risk for developing a variety of deadly cancers. Holick points
to prospective and retrospective studies indicating that vitamin D
deficiency is associated with a 30-50% increased risk of colon, prostate and
breast cancer along with higher mortality among those diagnosed with these
cancers, especially darker skin individuals who have the highest incidence
of vitamin D deficiency in the US.
Vitamin D deficiency has also been linked to an increased risk of
infectious diseases including tuberculosis and influenza as well as
hypertension and cardiovascular disease.
"Vitamin D deficiency is an
epidemic in this country," stated Dr. Holick. "Sensible sun exposure and the
use of supplements are the best ways to address this easily preventable
condition," he added.
Dr. Michael F. Holick is a Professor of Medicine,
Physiology and Biophysics at Boston University. He is internationally
recognized for his expertise and contributions to the fields of vitamin D,
calcium, bone and the biologic effects of light in dermatology,
endocrinology, and medicine.
To see this article as it appears in the New England Journal of Medicine,
please visit Dr. Holick's website at
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