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What Happens When You Are Vitamin D Deficient?

author image Janet Renee, MS, RD
Janet Renee is a clinical dietitian with a special interest in weight management, sports dietetics, medical nutrition therapy and diet trends. She earned her Master of Science in nutrition from the University of Chicago and has contributed to health and wellness magazines, including Prevention, Self, Shape and Cooking Light.
What Happens When You Are Vitamin D Deficient?
Your skin produces vitamin D from exposure to sunlight. Photo Credit: fatchoi/iStock/Getty Images

Vitamin D plays a role in numerous bodily functions, including regulating the immune system. It's best-known role is in bone health. Vitamin D helps your body absorb calcium, which helps build and maintain strong bones. You get vitamin D from sources such as sun exposure, eggs, fortified milk and fatty fish like salmon, tuna and mackerel. Deficiencies can result from too little sun exposure, inadequate intake and impaired absorption. An adequate vitamin D level is 20 nanograms per milliliter or higher, according to the Office of Dietary Supplements.

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Low Vitamin D

Cartons of milk in dairy aisle of market
Cartons of milk in dairy aisle of market Photo Credit: Justin Sullivan/Getty Images News/Getty Images

In adults, vitamin deficiency causes bones to weaken and become soft. In children, this is known as rickets. This occurs because without vitamin D, the bones are unable to harden in a process known as mineralization. Scientists are still learning what other issues vitamin D deficiency may cause. Too little vitamin D may increase the risk of high blood pressure, obesity, depression and certain cancers, according to the University of Maryland Medical center. More research is needed in these areas.

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