Patients with health conditions that reduce their ability to absorb fat can benefit from vitamin D deficiency testing
The human body relies on 13 essential vitamins to keep all of its systems running optimally. Vitamin D is one and a key player in bone growth and remodeling. It also aids in the absorption of calcium, a nutrient used by the body to further support bone health while also preventing muscle cramps and spasms, hence the value of vitamin D deficiency testing.
Encouraging chiropractic patients to get enough vitamin D is a good first step to promoting and protecting their musculoskeletal health. But if you want to make an even greater impact, also suggest that patients regularly test their vitamin D levels. This can help them determine if they may be deficient, which is extremely common.
Vitamin D deficiency prevalence
The Office of Dietary Supplements (ODS) reports that more than nine in 10 people don’t consume the suggested amount of vitamin D. Specifically, 92% of men have inadequate intakes along with more than 97% of women. Even 94% of children don’t take in enough vitamin D. Over time, this inadequate intake can lead to a deficiency.
Additional causes of a vitamin D deficiency include:
- Not spending enough time in the sun
- The kidneys being unable to convert vitamin D into 1,25(OH)2D or calcitriol
- Inadequate or inefficient vitamin D absorption due to disease or dysfunction
High-risk deficiency groups
Some people have a greater risk of being deficient in this vitamin than others. Among them are those allergic to milk, individuals who are lactose intolerant, and people who follow a vegan or ovo-vegetarian diet. Both avoid the consumption of animal products with the ovo-vegetarian diet allowing the consumption of eggs. Many of the foods high in vitamin D are animal-based, so removing these from the diet can reduce intake.
Studies have also found that skin pigmentation can impact whether a person has an elevated risk of a vitamin D deficiency. One piece of research involved both fair-skinned and dark-skinned subjects. After one session of UVB exposure to the entire body, vitamin D levels were significantly increased in the fair-skinned participants but not in the dark-skinned participants. These differences were still present at six days post-exposure.
People with health conditions that reduce their ability to absorb fat and those who have undergone gastric bypass surgery have a greater risk of deficiency as well and can benefit from vitamin D deficiency testing. Fat absorption is an issue because vitamin D is fat-soluble. Gastric bypass surgery can lead to deficiency because the upper part of the small intestine is bypassed during this intervention, which is the same part of the intestine used for vitamin D absorption.
Effects of low vitamin D levels
One effect of low levels of vitamin D is an increased risk of breaks and fractures. In patients with osteoporosis, vitamin D inadequacy can contribute to declines in bone mass and quality according to research published in Archives in Biochemistry and Biophysics. The ODS adds that other studies have connected low vitamin D levels with various cancers, multiple sclerosis, and type 2 diabetes, though more research is needed in these areas.
Children who are deficient in vitamin D can develop rickets. Rickets can cause their bones to hurt while also making them more susceptible to breaks. The American Academy of Family Physicians shares that children with rickets may have a large forehead or abdomen, bowed legs, and wide wrists, knees, and ankles.
Research has also found a link between vitamin D deficiency and poorer cardiovascular health. In a 2015 article published in BioMed Research International, authors from the University of Medicine and Pharmacy in Romania indicate that vitamin D has antihypertensive properties. It is also involved in a lot of the processes related to cholesterol. When levels are low, this opens the door to issues with both.
Vitamin D deficiency testing options
By paying attention to their vitamin D levels, patients can better understand if they are deficient and, if so, begin to take steps to remedy this deficiency. This is where vitamin D deficiency testing comes in.
Patients can ask their medical doctor to perform a blood test to determine their current vitamin D status. Some do this automatically for patients during their annual physicals, especially for those in high-risk groups, since as outlined above the need for vitamin D deficiency testing and basic deficiencies hover in the 90th percentile for patients.