Vitamin D: advice for your patients

Vitamin D plays a vital role in helping to maintain health, but it can be difficult for the body to produce and absorb enough of it. This page contains resources explaining the importance of vitamin D, the causes of vitamin D deficiency and how it is tested, and advice you can give to patients.

Why is vitamin D important?

Vitamin D plays a crucial role in facilitating calcium absorption, which is needed for the body’s maintenance of healthy bones, muscles and teeth. It has also been found to be important in helping to protect muscle strength and prevent rickets, osteomalacia and falls.

Who is most at risk of vitamin D deficiency?

Babies and young children, pregnant and breastfeeding mothers, and people over the age of 65 are all at risk of vitamin D deficiency. Patients who spend very little time outside or those of darker skin tones living in northern climates may also be at risk.

What causes vitamin D deficiency?

Deficiency is seen in patients who do not consume enough vitamin D over time. This can be the result of a diet lacking in animal-based products, low exposure to natural sunlight, or high levels of melanin reducing the skin's ability to produce vitamin D.

Advice to give to patients to help prevent vitamin D deficiency

A healthy diet alone cannot ensure the correct levels of vitamin D, as few foods contain enough of it naturally. The latest advice recommends supplements should play a role in maintaining healthy levels of vitamin D. Read more guidance for patients.

Testing for vitamin D deficiency

The most common method of testing for vitamin D deficiency is through measuring levels of the vitamin in the blood. A typical test will measure the level of 25-hydroxy vitamin D per millilitre of sample taken.

Vitamin D seasonal deficiency

Between October and March, there is insufficient sunlight for the reliable dermal production of vitamin D. During winter in the UK, 30 to 40% of the general population across all age groups are classed as having vitamin D deficiency.1

Vitamin D: questions to expect from patients

During diagnosis of vitamin D deficiency, patients are most likely to ask questions relating to treatment, causes, diet and lifestyle.

Vitamin D in pregnant and breastfeeding women

The NHS recommends that pregnant and breastfeeding women should take at least 10mcg (400 IU) of vitamin D each day, while some in at-risk groups may need more2.

Who is at increased risk of vitamin D deficiency?

References:

1. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4288313/
2. https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/pregnancy-and-baby/vitamins-minerals-supplements-pregnant/