Vitamin D is a fundamentally critical nutrient that the human body requires to function properly. It plays an important role in musculoskeletal health due to its involvement in the regulation of calcium and phosphorus. Having a low level of vitamin D in the body may be detrimental for a wide range of health outcomes, including risk of osteoporotic and stress fractures, risk of CVD and some cancers, and lowering of the capability of the immune system. Vitamin D is an unusual nutrient; it is not a vitamin, in the true sense of the word but a pro-hormone. The main source of vitamin D is UV exposure, not dietary intake. Interestingly, there are two forms of vitamin D, vitamin D2 and vitamin D3, both of which are metabolised into 25-hydroxyvitamin D (25(OH)D) in the liver, the biomarker of vitamin D status. Vitamin D deficiency is a global public health problem, especially amongst older people and ethnic minority groups. The newest publication from the UK Government's Public Health England Department recommends that vitamin D intake should be 10 μg daily and this recommendation compares well (albeit lower) with other guidelines such as the Institute of Medicine recommendation of 15 μg for those aged 1–70 years and 20 μg for those 70 years or over. Few countries, however, have a specific vitamin D policy to prevent deficiency in populations. Finland leads the way, demonstrating impressive results in reducing population-level vitamin D deficiency through mandatory food fortification programmes. Collaboration between academia, government and industry, including countries from varying latitudes, is essential to identify long-term solutions to the global issue of vitamin D deficiency. This paper provides a narrative review of the evidence related to the role of vitamin D deficiency in health outcomes, outlines controversies regarding setting levels of adequacy, identifies the prevalence of vitamin D deficiency across the globe, and identifies population-level strategies adopted by countries to prevent vitamin D deficiency.
Available for download on Wednesday, February 24, 2021