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Why Do So Many People Have Low Vitamin D Levels?

If you have gone in for a recent general checkup and had laboratory blood testing for routine purposes, there is an excellent chance that when you see the results, your Vitamin D level is marked as “low”.  When your look at the normal range, you will see most likely “30-100 ng/ml”.  Although I have not counted this exactly, I would bet that 95% of my patients come in with a level below 30.

Before we dive into Vitamin D, just a few words about “normal” ranges.  One would think that “normal” would be a sort of Bell curve, meaning that 50% of people are below the average and 50% above that average number.  If this was the case, why would so many people be labelled as “below normal”?

Okay, back to Vitamin D: This fat soluble vitamin is essential for helping the body absorb calcium and phosphorus.  This, in turn, leads to normal bone building.  Additionally, Vitamin D has been shown in some studies to reduce cancer risk as well as bolstering the immune system.  Eating fish, milk, eggs and Vitamin fortified cereals will deliver lots of Vitamin D to you.  However, vitamins containing Vitamin D will not bring any calories with them  Exposure to the sunlight allows our skin to manufacture Vitamin D as well.

Vitamin D deficiency can be caused by inadequate exposure to sunlight, not ingesting enough Vitamin D in your diet and kidney problems may cause this as well.  Malabsorption of Vitamin D from your diet caused by gastrointestinal problems may also lead to Vitamin D deficiency.

Now, back to the question posed in this entry:  Most people with low Vitamin D levels will state that their diet contains plenty of Vitamin D and they get plenty of sun exposure.  So, why are their levels below 30 ng/ml?  Well, I really cannot find a good answer to this question and this gets me back to the issue of most people showing “below normal” levels.  Maybe we need to investigate more why this “30-100” normal range has become the standard.

I guess from a “take action” standpoint, if your Vitamin D levels are between 20-30, I would recommend an OTC Vitamin D at 2000 IU a day.  If you are below 20, see your doctor about a prescription strength 50,000 IU once a week.

We all want strong bones and a healthy immune system, right?

No songs about Vitamin D, but as I am writing “stuff” most days for my patients, here is a song by the Beatles called “Doctor Robert”.  (hmm…this is sort of narcissistic, huh?)

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