Objective: While vitamin D deficiency is well recognized in Middle Eastern women as a result of cultural norms of remaining covered, Middle Eastern men are an under-reported group. Vitamin D is now known to have multiple effects, including an impact on muscle function, thereby increasing the relevance for sportsmen. The aim of the present study was to evaluate serum 25-hydroxyvitamin D (25(OH)D) levels in young male Middle Eastern athletes.
Design: Cross-sectional study.
Setting: Qatar Orthopaedic and Sports Medicine Hospital, Doha, Qatar.
Subjects: Ninety-three Middle Eastern men presenting to hospital for an annual screening undertook a blood test to evaluate their vitamin D status.
Results: Ninety-one per cent of athletes were found to be deficient in 25(OH)D (serum concentration <20 ng/ml). Athletes with severe deficiencies were significantly younger than those with less marked deficiency. A subset of athletes underwent bone mineral density assessment and 59 % were shown to have at least one Z-score less than -1; despite this, however, no athletes reported a stress fracture. There was no correlation between 25(OH)D concentration and sunlight exposure, skin coverage and skin colouring.
Conclusions: The study revealed that 25(OH)D deficiency is very common among otherwise healthy Middle Eastern male athletes. Given the potentially significant long- and short-term effects of 25(OH)D deficiency, serum 25(OH)D evaluation should be part of the routine assessment in this region.