Vitamin D deficiency highly prevalent in European adolescents

September 9, 2011

About 80% of European adolescents may have suboptimal vitamin D blood levels, which potentially increases the risk of chronic diseases, says a new study.

In the observational trial, vitamin D concentrations in blood samples from 1006 adolescents from nine European countries with an age range of 12.5–17.5 years were analyzed (1). The study results showed that around 80% of the participants had suboptimal vitamin D (25-hydroxycholecalciferol) levels i.e., 39% were insufficient (50–75 nmol/l), 27% were deficient (27.5–49.99 nmol/l) and 15% were severely deficient (< 27.5 nmol/l). Vitamin D concentrations increased with age and tended to decrease according to Body Mass Index.

The researchers concluded that vitamin D deficiency is a highly prevalent condition in European adolescents. Due to its important role in cell growth, skeletal structure and development, having an adequate vitamin D status is essential during childhood and adolescence. Vitamin D reduces the risk of conditions such as cardiovascular disease, osteoporosis, diabetes mellitus, infections and autoimmune disease and therefore should be a matter of concern for public health authorities.

Adolescents are considered as a risk group for insufficient micronutrient intakes because of their increasing needs of nutrients and energy for adequate growth and development that vary with age (2). However, micronutrient status is not routinely screened in this population group. The main sources of vitamin D are food intake and under-the-skin synthesis from UV light (290–315 nm) exposure. Due to the geographical situation of Europe, vitamin D synthesis may not compensate for a low nutritional intake (3).


  1. González-Gross M. et al. Vitamin D status among adolescents in Europe: the Healthy Lifestyle in Europe by Nutrition in Adolescence study. British Journal of Nutrition. Online publication August 2011.
  2. Prentice A. et al. Energy and nutrient dietary reference values for children in Europe: methodological approaches and current nutritional recommendations. Br J Nutr. 2004; 92(2):83–146.
  3. Scharla S. H. Prevalence of subclinical vitamin D deficiency in different European countries. Osteoporos Int. 1998; 8(2):7–12.