Vitamin D deficiency risk factors

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Editor-In-Chief: C. Michael Gibson, M.S., M.D. [1] Associate Editor(s)-in-Chief: Sadaf Sharfaei M.D.[2]


Important risk factors for vitamin D deficiency that can not be changed are non-western ethnicity, older age and colder seasons. Sedentary lifestyle and less sun exposure play a significant role in increasing vitamin D deficiency.

Risk Factors

The risk factors of vitamin D deficiency can be categorized into three main groups; non-modifiable risk factors, modifiable risk factors, and also factors that are related to mothers' conditions.[1][2][3][4][5][6][7][8]

Non-modifiable risk factors

  • Age
  • Ethnicity: non-western ethnicity like African, Asian, Turkish, and Moroccan children are at greater risks than children of western ethnic background.
  • Dark skin color
  • Season: late fall, winter, and spring
  • Geography: higher latitude, lower altitude, cloudy weather

Modifiable risk factors

  • Life style including sedentary behavior, high child television watching, and less outdoor activities
  • Less sun exposure including use of sunscreen or clothing
  • Obesity
  • Being underweight
  • Less milk drinking
  • Not taking vitamin D supplements
  • Exclusive breastfeeding

Maternal risk factors

  • Lower maternal age
  • Lower household income
  • Multiparity
  • Higher maternal BMI


  1. Hossein-nezhad A, Holick MF (2013). "Vitamin D for health: a global perspective". Mayo Clin Proc. 88 (7): 720–55. doi:10.1016/j.mayocp.2013.05.011. PMC 3761874. PMID 23790560.
  2. Holick MF (2004). "Vitamin D: importance in the prevention of cancers, type 1 diabetes, heart disease, and osteoporosis". Am J Clin Nutr. 79 (3): 362–71. PMID 14985208.
  3. MacLaughlin J, Holick MF (1985). "Aging decreases the capacity of human skin to produce vitamin D3". J Clin Invest. 76 (4): 1536–8. doi:10.1172/JCI112134. PMC 424123. PMID 2997282.
  4. Voortman T, van den Hooven EH, Heijboer AC, Hofman A, Jaddoe VW, Franco OH (2015). "Vitamin D deficiency in school-age children is associated with sociodemographic and lifestyle factors". J Nutr. 145 (4): 791–8. doi:10.3945/jn.114.208280. PMID 25833782.
  5. Kyriakidou-Himonas M, Aloia JF, Yeh JK (1999). "Vitamin D supplementation in postmenopausal black women". J Clin Endocrinol Metab. 84 (11): 3988–90. doi:10.1210/jcem.84.11.6132. PMID 10566638.
  6. Webb AR, Kline L, Holick MF (1988). "Influence of season and latitude on the cutaneous synthesis of vitamin D3: exposure to winter sunlight in Boston and Edmonton will not promote vitamin D3 synthesis in human skin". J Clin Endocrinol Metab. 67 (2): 373–8. doi:10.1210/jcem-67-2-373. PMID 2839537.
  7. Wortsman J, Matsuoka LY, Chen TC, Lu Z, Holick MF (2000). "Decreased bioavailability of vitamin D in obesity". Am J Clin Nutr. 72 (3): 690–3. PMID 10966885.
  8. Rodríguez-Rodríguez E, Navia B, López-Sobaler AM, Ortega RM (2009). "Vitamin D in overweight/obese women and its relationship with dietetic and anthropometric variables". Obesity (Silver Spring). 17 (4): 778–82. doi:10.1038/oby.2008.649. PMID 19180066.

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