Vitamin D deficiency is endemic in Middle Eastern sportsmen

Public Health Nutr. 2010 Oct;13(10):1528-34. doi: 10.1017/S136898000999320X. Epub 2010 Jan 15.


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.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Athletes*
  • Bone Density
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Endemic Diseases / statistics & numerical data*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Middle East / epidemiology
  • Prevalence
  • Vitamin D / analogs & derivatives*
  • Vitamin D / blood
  • Vitamin D Deficiency / blood
  • Vitamin D Deficiency / epidemiology*
  • Young Adult


  • Vitamin D
  • 25-hydroxyvitamin D