Food and Behaviour Research

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Vitamin D in adolescents: Are current recommendations enough?

Smith TJ, Lanham-New SA, et al (2017) J Steroid Biochem Mol Biol. 2017 Oct 173 265-272. doi: 10.1016/j.jsbmb.2017.02.010. Epub 2017 Feb 16. 

Web URL: Read this article on PubMed here


Vitamin D is essential for bone development during adolescence and low vitamin D status during this critical period of growth may impact bone mineralization, potentially reducing peak bone mass and consequently increasing the risk of osteoporosis in adulthood. Therefore, the high prevalence of vitamin D inadequacy and deficiency in adolescent populations is of great concern.

However, there is currently a lack of consensus on the 25-hydroxyvitamin D [25(OH)D] concentration, the widely accepted biomarker of vitamin D status, that defines adequacy, and the vitamin D intake requirements to maintain various 25(OH)D thresholds are not well established.

While the current intake recommendations of 10-15μg/day may be sufficient to prevent vitamin D deficiency (25(OH)D<25-30nmol/l), greater intakes may be needed to achieve the higher threshold levels proposed to represent adequacy (25(OH)D>50nmol/l).

This review will address these concerns and consider if the current dietary recommendations for vitamin D in adolescents are sufficient.






The following key points were flagged as 'Highlights' from this review:

  • Adolescents are a population sub-group particularly vulnerable to low vitamin D status.
  • Current intake recommendations of 10–15 μg/day may help avoid vitamin D deficiency (25(OH)D < 25–30 nmol/l).
  • However higher intakes of 20–50 μg/day may be required to achieve adequacy (25(OH)D 50 nmol/l).
  • Dose-response studies are needed to determine optimal 25(OH)D concentration for maximal bone accretion in adolescents and the intake requirements to achieve this.

As responsible scientific researchers, these authors have of course included the (almost inevitable) conclusion that 'more research is needed'. 

They also flag, however, that that the existing data all indicate that adolescents are at particularly high risk of having low Vitamin D status, and that current recommendations for dietary intake may be too low for adolescents to achieve 'adequate' Vitamin D status - even if they may be enough to prevent frank deficiencies.

For more information on Vitamin D, see: