Vitamin D deficiency 2.0: an update on the current status worldwide

Karin Amrein, Mario Scherkl, Magdalena Hoffmann, Stefan Neuwersch-Sommeregger, Markus Köstenberger, Adelina Tmava Berisha, Gennaro Martucci, Stefan Pilz, Oliver Malle

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review


Vitamin D testing and the use of vitamin D supplements have increased substantially in recent years. Currently, the role of vitamin D supplementation, and the optimal vitamin D dose and status, is a subject of debate, because large interventional studies have been unable to show a clear benefit (in mostly vitamin D replete populations). This may be attributed to limitations in trial design, as most studies did not meet the basic requirements of a nutrient intervention study, including vitamin D-replete populations, too small sample sizes, and inconsistent intervention methods regarding dose and metabolites. Vitamin D deficiency (serum 25-hydroxyvitamin D [25(OH)D] < 50 nmol/L or 20 ng/ml) is associated with unfavorable skeletal outcomes, including fractures and bone loss. A 25(OH)D level of >50 nmol/L or 20 ng/ml is, therefore, the primary treatment goal, although some data suggest a benefit for a higher threshold. Severe vitamin D deficiency with a 25(OH)D concentration below <30 nmol/L (or 12 ng/ml) dramatically increases the risk of excess mortality, infections, and many other diseases, and should be avoided whenever possible. The data on a benefit for mortality and prevention of infections, at least in severely deficient individuals, appear convincing. Vitamin D is clearly not a panacea, and is most likely efficient only in deficiency. Given its rare side effects and its relatively wide safety margin, it may be an important, inexpensive, and safe adjuvant therapy for many diseases, but future large and well-designed studies should evaluate this further. A worldwide public health intervention that includes vitamin D supplementation in certain risk groups, and systematic vitamin D food fortification to avoid severe vitamin D deficiency, would appear to be important. In this narrative review, the current international literature on vitamin D deficiency, its relevance, and therapeutic options is discussed.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1498-1513
Number of pages16
JournalEuropean Journal of Clinical Nutrition
Issue number11
Publication statusPublished - Nov 2020


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