Anemia and Vitamin D Deficiency

Erythrocytes
The blood needs vitamin D to help create heme, iron-containing blood. (Image: Natalia Lukiyanova/Hemera/Getty Images)

Vitamin D is required to help the body function normally. It especially affects the formation and health of red blood cells. Since vitamin D is needed to help red blood cells use iron, a deficiency of vitamin D is associated with anemia. Severe vitamin D deficiency can lead to more serious conditions as well.

Function

Vitamin D is required for bone and mineral metabolism as well as muscle strengthening and immune system functioning according to an article published in 2010 in the “Annals of Hematology.” It is also linked to anemia, which is the lack of enough red blood cells to supply oxygen to tissues of the body. People with anemia tend to feel tired a lot.

Evidence

Vitamin D is necessary for several functions in different tissues throughout the body. Researchers have discovered this because there is a relationship between vitamin D deficiency and anemia. In a sample of patients with chronic kidney disease, 41% of patients met the criteria for anemia according to the findings of a study published in 2010 in “Kidney International.” Those who were deficient in vitamin D had more than a fivefold increase in the prevalence of anemia compared to those who did not have a vitamin D deficiency. Yet, the researchers note that they are uncertain if the effects are causal. Specifically, it is hard to determine if vitamin D deficiencies lead to anemia or if anemia causes vitamin D deficiencies.

Type

25D and D,1,25 are two different forms of vitamin D. The type D,1,25 is the active form of vitamin D that is strictly regulated by the body. Specifically, D,1,25 consumed in the diet is unlikely to show in the urine weeks later. The 25D form of vitamin D binds to the vitamin receptors of the body making D,1,25 inactive. So, the balance of the two types of vitamin D is important in order for them to work together properly.

Process

When a deficiency of 25D is present, there is an increased risk of reticulocytosis according to the researchers in the “Annals of Hematology.” Reticulocytosis is the increase of immature red blood cells. When immature red blood cells are produced, this leads to anemia. Vitamin D deficiency is also related to a reduced ability for red blood cells to become active.

Outcomes

Aerial view of bright sun over cloud blanket
Vitamin D deficiencies caused by lack of sun exposure led to rickets. (Image: Stockbyte/Stockbyte/Getty Images)

When there is a deficiency of vitamin D, the malfunctioning red blood cells can lead to skeletal deformations and other health problems. During the epidemic rickets scourge during the 1900s, insufficient sun exposure left many children with retarded growth, muscle weakness, skeletal deformities, and tetany, a condition that leads to the involuntary control of muscles as a result of rickets disease. After the mandate that milk be fortified with vitamin D was implemented, the condition almost completely disappeared since that time.

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