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Vitamin D deficiency in Australia

PERTH, AUSTRALIA. Several studies have shown that many older Australians, especially those that are housebound or in nursing homes, have a vitamin D deficiency. This is often accompanied by secondary hyperparathyroidism which in turn is a potent risk factor for osteoporosis. Medical scientists at the Royal Perth Hospital now report that low vitamin D levels may be more widespread than originally believed. Their study involved 197 people (99 men and 98 women) who donated blood between August and November 1998. The donors were between the ages of 18 and 76 years with half being under 60 years of age.

The scientists discovered that 63 donors (34 per cent) had a serum level of 25-hydroxyvitamin D (25D) below 50 nmol/L. The presence of a deficiency was not related to age. They also found that 19 out of 20 donors diagnosed with hyperparathyroidism had 25D levels below 50 nmol/L. They suggest that levels below 50 nmol/L increase the risk of secondary hyperparathyroidism and therefore osteoporosis. The scientists speculate that the campaign linking skin cancer to sun exposure is contributing to the prevalence of vitamin D deficiency because people are now shunning the sun. They conclude that vitamin D deficiency may be widespread and not just limited to institutionalized and housebound older people and that supplementation with vitamin D may have beneficial effects on a large proportion of the population.
Vasikaran, Samuel D., et al. Vitamin D insufficiency and hyperparathyroidism in Perth blood donors. Medical Journal of Australia, Vol. 172, April 17, 2000, pp. 406-07 (letter)

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