Momentum in the Mountains 2024


The Ignored Pandemic Vitamin D Deficiency

author avatar Dr. Eric Berg 08/31/2023

We are continuing to see seriously low vitamin D levels creep up all around the world. Today, I want to talk to you about what I consider to be the ignored pandemic: vitamin D deficiency.

I will cover:

Vitamin D Deficiency written on whiteboard in black pen with stethoscope hanging.


Vitamin D deficiency is widespread across the globe

There is a serious lack of vitamin D around the world. In fact, there are over 1 billion people on this planet who are either deficient in vitamin D or who have vitamin D insufficiency. An insufficiency means you have low vitamin D but don’t quite have a full-blown vitamin D deficiency.q

Certain areas of the world are worse than others. For example, people who live in the northern hemisphere typically have lower amounts of vitamin D than people in the southern hemisphere. That excludes the Scandinavian countries, where people tend to eat more vitamin D-rich fish.

Areas like China, India, South America, and the Middle East tend to see severe vitamin D deficiencies.

World map of the planet, global view highlighting populations across the world.

This widespread problem of low vitamin D levels is why I call vitamin D deficiency the ignored pandemic. A pandemic is something that affects a large part of the population worldwide. And as I’ve shared, there is a serious problem with low vitamin D across the globe.


The importance of vitamin D

Vitamin D is a very important vitamin that is necessary for over 200 biochemical reactions. It is well-known for its involvement in bone health and calcium metabolism, but it has far-reaching effects in the body beyond just that.

In fact, 5% of the genome is influenced by vitamin D. It is vital for blood pressure, mood, regulating inflammation, and more. Learn more about the amazing vitamin D here.

When you have low vitamin D levels, you can end up with a variety of symptoms. These might include getting sick often, fatigue, pain, depression, sleep problems, bone loss, and more.

One of the most important benefits of vitamin D in the body is boosting your immune health. Without enough vitamin D, your immune system can really start to suffer. And that will leave you more susceptible to infection and illness.

Vitamin D icon with yellow sun shape and vitamin D text on white background.


The effects of low vitamin D on the immune system

Some of the most serious side effects of vitamin D deficiency relate to a weakened immune system.

If you don’t have enough vitamin D, very specific things start to happen in the immune system:

  1. T-helper cells have a hard time working. These are like the generals of your immune army that coordinate the entire military team. When they aren’t working properly, your immune defenses are severely hindered
  2. Regulatory T cells are inhibited. These cells help prevent autoimmune reactions and suppress inappropriate inflammatory responses. They are especially helpful in the lung, inhibiting the cytokine storm that is involved in acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS). Vitamin D regulates how much or how little immune reaction you need to overcome an infection. When we are low in vitamin D, it is hard to stop inappropriate immune reactions.
  3. Pathogens get fueled by iron. Vitamin D helps to inhibit iron from getting into certain cells, where pathogens eat the iron. Vitamin D helps to prevent these kinds of microbes from getting the iron they need.
  4. Macrophages aren’t stimulated. Macrophages are immune cells that eat garbage, viruses, bacteria, and other pathogens, helping to clear them away. Vitamin D stimulates macrophages and helps turn pre-macrophage cells into macrophages. So without vitamin D, we don’t have enough macrophage activity to get rid of harmful substances from the body.
  5. Antimicrobial peptides are reduced. Vitamin D also helps our immune system make antimicrobial weapons called peptides. When vitamin D is low, we’ll have less of these weapons around to fight off infections.

As you can see, not having enough vitamin D can impact the immune system in many different ways. That’s why one of the low vitamin D symptoms is getting sick often. If we have a vitamin D deficiency, our immune systems just aren’t able to fight off pathogens and protect us from illness.

We rely on vitamin D to maintain a strong immune system that can keep us safe and healthy.

Pen to checkboxes on paper that says are you getting enough sunshine? Yes or no.


Vitamin D deficiency causes

There are many reasons that you might become vitamin D deficient. Unlike other vitamins that you can get easily through dietary food sources, it is really hard to get enough vitamin D through your diet.

So we usually need to rely on regular exposure to sunshine each day or vitamin D supplements to get plenty of vitamin D.

Some of the risk factors for lack of vitamin D include:

  • Age. As we get older, it becomes harder to get vitamin D. Our skin gets thicker and vitamin D conversion from sun exposure goes down.
  • Clothing. If we are always wearing a lot of clothes when we are outside, the sun can’t get to our skin. We need sun exposure to get vitamin D.
  • Latitude. Living farther from the equator limits your vitamin D exposure from the sun.
  • Pollution. When there is more pollution, there is less sunlight getting to your body. If you live in a more polluted area you are more likely to be vitamin D deficient.
  • Skin color. The more melanin you have in your skin, the less vitamin D you will be able to absorb.
  • Sun block. The more sunscreen you use when out in the sun, the lower your vitamin D intake will be.
  • Genetics. We have 63 different polymorphisms (genetic variations) of the vitamin D receptor. That means each individual has differing levels of vitamin D absorption.
  • Infections. Pathogens tend to deplete you of vitamin D. They block your vitamin D receptors and your immune system uses up a lot of vitamin D when you are sick. So if you have recently had an infection or have a chronic infection of some sort, you are more likely to have low vitamin D levels. Learn more here.
  • Malabsorption. If you have gut damage or some inflammatory condition in your digestive system, that will prevent you from absorbing as much vitamin D as you need.
  • Pregnancy and lactation. If a pregnant or lactating woman isn’t getting out in the sun or supplementing with vitamin D3, then she can become deficient very fast. Babies add extra demand for nutrients.

There are many reasons that you might have a lack of vitamin D. If you have any of the risk factors above or think any of the low vitamin D causes might be a problem for you, it’s time to do something about it. Get out in the sun more or consider taking a vitamin D3 supplement.

Hand holds vitamin D supplement pill with sunshine coming through, blue sky and sun exposure.


The bottom line

Billions of people all over the world don’t have enough vitamin D, and I believe that we are in the midst of a vitamin D deficiency pandemic.

These low levels of vitamin D put people at risk for common health concerns and threaten the immune system. As a result, you can end up more susceptible to infections like the coronavirus.

Taking vitamin D as a preventative measure to keep yourself healthy might not be a bad idea. And if someone you know is sick or has a preexisting condition like cardiovascular disease, diabetes, high blood pressure, or obesity, then it is more important than ever to get them on vitamin D. Supplements can help them to correct low vitamin D levels and boost immune strength to fight off infections.

Did you know that vitamin D deficiency is a global problem? And did you know that low vitamin D causes your immune system to weaken? Share your questions and comments with me below.


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Disclaimer: Our educational content is not meant or intended for medical advice or treatment.

Editor’s Note: This post has been updated for quality and relevancy.

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