Objective: To determine the vitamin D status (serum 25-hydroxyvitamin D; S-25OHD) in adolescent girls and elderly community-dwelling women living in four countries of northern Europe and to explain differences in S-25OHD concentrations between and within the countries.
Design: A cross-sectional observational study conducted in a standardised way during February-March. S-25OHD was analysed by high-performance liquid chromatography. Vitamin D and calcium intake was calculated using a standardised food composition database.
Setting: Denmark, Finland, Ireland, and Poland.
Subjects: A total of 199 girls (mean (s.d.) age 12.6 (0.5) y) and 221 women (mean (s.d.) age 71.8 (1.4) y).
Results: The median (inter quartiles) concentration of S-25OHD was 29.4 (20.3, 38.3) nmol/l for the girls and 40.7 (28.0, 54.2) nmol/l for the women. S-25OHD below 25 nmol/l was found in 37% of the girls and 17% of the women, and S-25OHD below 50 nmol/l was found in 92% of the girls and 37% of the women. Positive significant determinants for S-25OHD in girls were use of vitamin D supplements, and in women sun habits, dietary vitamin D intake, use of vitamin D and calcium supplements. Body mass index and smoking were negative determinants in women. For women predictors could explain the differences between countries (P(country) = 0.09, R(2) = 0.39), but for girls the difference remained significant even after including predictors (P(country) = 0.03, R(2) = 0.15).
Conclusion: Vitamin D status is low in northern Europe during winter. More than one-third of the adolescent girls have vitamin D status below 25 nmol/l and almost all are below 50 nmol/l. Two-thirds of the elderly community-dwelling women have vitamin D status below 50 nmol/l. Use of vitamin D supplements is a significant positive determinant for S-25OHD for both girls and women (P = 0.001).
Sponsorship: The European Fifth Framework Programme (Contract No. QLK1-CT-2000-00623).