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CDC nutrition report: Vitamin D status is a public health problem

Posted on: April 6, 2012   by  Brant Cebulla


Vitamin D Council members: you are the 1%!

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) just released their Second National Report on Biochemical Indicators of Diet and Nutrition, reporting the nutritional status of various nutrients in the United States population. The full 495 page report can be found here; information on vitamin D starts on page 172 of the booklet (which is page 183 of the .pdf):

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Second National Report on Biochemical Indicators of Diet and Nutrition, 2012.

They collected 16,604 25(OH)D samples between 2003-2006 from people of all age, gender and ethnicity. The national 25(OH)D mean was 55.6 nmol/l, which is about 22 ng/ml. The figure below is in nmol/l, not ng/ml. The conversion is [ng/ml] = [nmol/l] ÷ 2.5.

[insert figure]

It also appears that people’s sunbathing evasion habits are beginning to level off. It is commonly reported that people have increasingly avoided the sun the last 30 to 40 years. According to this report, vitamin D status is still lower than what it was between1988-1994, but is similar to status between 2001-2002. I wonder how much of this can be contributed to the general population shifting from outdoor hard labor jobs to indoor desk jobs. Has this shift leveled off the past 10 years? Below is this data, with the bar graphs displaying mean 25(OH)D status in nmol/l, broken down into total population, gender and ethnicity.

[insert figure]

Remember this data is in nmol/l, not ng/ml. This data also begs the question, what does data look like from 2007-2011? With the amount of interest in vitamin D from the public and in study in recent years, has this translated at all into better sun exposure habits? Are we making a dent in alleviating this public health problem?

This data shows, even by the IOM’s standards, that vitamin D nutritional status is indeed a public health problem. The IOM set the sufficiency bar at 20 ng/ml (50 nmol/l). According to this CDC report, a 20 ng/ml bar implicates that over 45% of Hispanics, over 65% blacks and about 20% whites are deficient in vitamin D. Does this qualify as a public health problem?

If we went by other standards, according to this report, greater than 95% of the population would be deficient in vitamin D; which admittedly, sounds ridiculous.These standards include:

  • The Endocrine Society’s recommendation of 40-60 ng/ml (100-150 nmol/l)
  • Robert Heaney’s recommendation of 48-60 ng/ml (120-150 nmol/l)
  • Vitamin D Council’s recommendation of 40-80 ng/ml (100-200 nmol/l)

Why might you be a part of the 1%? Assuming you live by the above standards (you are reading the Vitamin D Council’s blog after all), you probably have a 25(OH)D level of 50 ng/ml. What percentage of the population has a level of 50 ng/ml or greater? According to this report, just 0.9%.

5 Responses to CDC nutrition report: Vitamin D status is a public health problem

  1. [email protected]

    Made a bar chart of another recent CDC study: on vitamin D deficiency in women
    Less than 20 nanograms
    All women 37%
    Women less than high school education: 55%
    Black women: 78%

  2. [email protected]

    Bar graph of vitamin D deficiency vs skin color – from the CDC report
    16% Caucasian
    34% Mexican American
    38% blacks

  3. Brant Cebulla

    Henry, be sure to fix your graph in the second link. The bar graph you have provided are actually the percentages of different groups with blood levels between 12 and 20 ng/ml and does not include people under 12 ng/ml.

  4. drjkoneal

    Very interesting article but unfortunately, this isn’t an article that I can print out for patients that they would understand. There isn’t clear labeling in the article that says these numbers refer to blood levels. It says they collected “samples”. Only on the side of the second graph does it say in very small letters “serum levels”. I was very happy to see the recommended blood levels for Vitamin D by the Endrocrine Society, etc. but again, these are not labeled as “Recommended Serum Levels for Vitamin D 25-OH”. I would love to have the references for those recommendations so I can make up an information sheet for patients.

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