Vitamin D: Lessons from the Veterans Population

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Vitamin D deficiency (25(OH)D < 20 ng/mL) is likely to be present in about 40% of veterans and is associated with much higher health care costs and service use. The prevalence of vitamin D deficiency is likely to be higher in certain subgroups such as ethnic minorities, those who are chronically ill, and nursing home residents. The lack of adequate sunlight exposure and poor dietary intake are common contributors to this deficient state. Moreover, vitamin D deficiency has also been noted in individuals taking vitamin D supplements within the recommended daily intake. To achieve a 25(OH)D value in the normal range (30-100 ng/mL), many studies indicate a much higher daily oral intake than currently recommended is needed. Inadequate vitamin D dosing may account for failure of some studies to show a benefit. Testing for vitamin D insufficiency levels remains suboptimal and serial monitoring in veterans to assess if a vitamin D-replete state has been achieved also remains less than adequate. The lack of evidence-based guidelines for testing and monitoring has hampered optimal management of this very common condition. The cardiovascular, immunologic, anti-infective, and oncologic benefits of a vitamin D-replete state are becoming recognized. Achieving a vitamin D-replete state may prolong longevity. Achieving adequate vitamin D status in US veterans is an important health measure that should be undertaken.