Vitamin D deficiency in immigrants

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29 Citations (Scopus)


Vitamin D deficiency and rickets are more common in non-western immigrants and refugees than in the native population. Severe vitamin D deficiency (serum 25-hydroxyvitamin D <25 nmol/l) may occur in up to 50% of children and adults of non-western origin. They are not used to sunshine exposure due to the often excessive sunshine in the country of origin. They usually have a more pigmented skin. Non-western immigrants and refugees often wear skin-covering clothes due to religious or cultural tradition. The food contains little vitamin D with the exception of fatty fish. In addition, many immigrants have a low calcium intake. Complaints may include fatigue, pain in shoulders, ribs, lower back and thighs. Neonates and young children may have spasms and convulsions due to hypocalcemia. Older children and adolescents may have bone pain, muscle weakness and skeletal deformities. Widening of the wrist, chest deformities and bowing of the legs may occur, and longitudinal growth is delayed. In adults, muscle weakness and bone pain are predominant. Laboratory examination may show hypocalcemia and hypophosphatemia and elevated alkaline phosphatase. The serum 25(OH)D is below 25 nmol/l in case of severe vitamin D deficiency with symptoms. Impaired 25-hydroxylation or 1α-hydroxylation may occur in case of severe liver or renal disease or by genetic causes. Radiographs of wrists or knees may show widening of the growth plates and cupping of radius and ulna may confirm the diagnosis. In adolescents and adults, radiographs of painful bones may show pseudofractures or Looser zones. Rickets and osteomalacia are treated by vitamin D3 2000 IU/d in infants, 3000–6000 IU/d in older children in combination with calcium 500 mg /d. In osteomalacia, the adult vitamin D3 dose is 2000–3000 IU/d, combined with calcium 1000–2000 mg/d. Prevention of vitamin D deficiency can be done with vitamin D3 400–800 IU/d, depending on age. Nutritional measures include fortification of milk or other foods.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)37-41
Number of pages5
JournalBone Reports
Publication statusPublished - 1 Dec 2018


  • Immigrants
  • Osteomalacia
  • Prevention
  • Rickets
  • Vitamin D deficiency

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