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Should You Be Screened for Vitamin D Deficiency?

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Despite many studies demonstrating that low levels of vitamin D are linked to chronic conditions such as diabetes, osteoporosis, falls, cancer, depression, arthritis, hypertension and heart disease, the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force has just recommended against screening healthy people for vitamin D insufficiency. The panel says that the evidence supporting routine screening is unconvincing. In addition, laboratory tests for the vitamin are inconsistent. The Endocrine Society urges people at high risk of deficiency to get tested.


The People's Pharmacy perspective is that we may not know if we are at high risk of deficiency. Vitamin D tends to get locked up in fat stores, so people with excess fatty tissue could have inadequate levels of vitamin D without realizing it. Those of us who spend most of our working day inside at a desk and out of the sun where our skin could make vitamin D might also be low in this crucial vitamin. To learn more about the risks of low vitamin D and ways to get more, you may want to read our Guide to Vitamin D Deficiency. Then you will be able to tell if you should ask your doctor for a blood test, or send away for a home test kit to determine your vitamin D level.

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8 Comments

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Yes! Vitamin D is crucial. After a long journey with a non-responsive doctor, I changed and got help. She referred me to a rheumatologist who has literally saved me. I was diagnosed with osteoarthritis and my blood tests showed I was grossly deficient in Vitamin D. I now take several thousand units a day and I am feeling so much better. Even more encouraging is that I have hope.

There are two conflicting considerations with vitamin D screening. On one hand, the body eliminates vitamin D very slowly and a large excess of this vitamin can become toxic. Therefore, taking a vitamin D supplement "just in case" could potentially be harmful.

On the other hand, vitamin D is relatively inexpensive. If a person is found to be vitamin D deficient, takes a vitamin D supplement, and avoids the potential chronic and life threatening diseases that are treatable by pharmaceuticals associated with vitamin D deficiency, drug companies could potentially lose trillions of dollars in profits.

I laughed when I read the Task Force's "...the evidence supporting routine screening is unconvincing." statement because everywhere you turn, reports show that 3 out of every 4 Americans tested are deficient in vitamin D.

Even the alterative MD I work with here in Florida, "The Sunshine State," has found that the 75% deficiency rate is highly accurate after testing many of her patients. And there are now thousands of studies on vitamin D with the overwhelming majority of them showing positive benefits for having higher levels of vitamin D. So I guess the Task Force is just one more organization that's been "bought" by the pharmaceutical companies.

Does this task force of dunces also recommend against screening people who present symptoms of any of the named chronic conditions?

Just because you get plenty of sunshine, don't assume you have an adequate level of vitamin D.

There are lots of people who simply do NOT make much from skin exposure. Me for one. It is also important to get tested after supplementing because every body is different and it may take more or less of D3 to get the number right.

Yes, well, Vitamin D, Ruler of the immune system, is freely and fully available in sunshine. If, as usual, Americans could curb personal excess and do the sensible thing, they could safely sunbathe 3 times a day for about 15 minutes which would be better than any supplement. And they'd get all the Vit D they needed. Instead, doctors have demonized sunlight, not because there's anything wrong with sunlight, but because people exceed safe limits (that used to be called self-indulgence, right?) Americans are now vitamin D deficient because they've been scared out of the sun. Well, DUH!

Not all people make vitamin D at the same rate, since they are different ages and have different skin colors. Not everyone lives in the same climate nor do we all have time to strip down to sixty per cent skin exposure three times a day during hours when the sun is at a favorable angle. Why blame people? Doctors have indeed scared people out of the sun and advise people to avoid the sun during the very hours when the skin is able to make Vitamin D. They also urge us to put chemicals on our skin. My rule is that if I would not eat it, I will not put it on my skin.

frenagd, you have the right idea but you are very wrong about everyone getting enough vitamin D with the sun. I followed my Dr's instructions exactly and we worked on getting my very low D level raised-to no avail. Almost full body exposure!

Then came the supplements. After every test we raised the level. Finally my family Dr. threw up his hands and said "double it!". I finally got my level up to 72 with incredibly high doses. He wants me at 100 because I am a cancer survivor.

There are always exceptions to generalizations.

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