Hypovitaminosis D in developing countries-prevalence, risk factors and outcomes

Nat Rev Endocrinol. 2010 Oct;6(10):550-61. doi: 10.1038/nrendo.2010.146.


Hypovitaminosis D is a prevalent disorder in developing countries. Clinical manifestations of hypovitaminosis D include musculoskeletal disorders, such as nonspecific muscle pain, poor muscle strength and low BMD, as well as nonmusculoskeletal disorders, such as an increased risk of respiratory infections, diabetes mellitus and possibly cardiovascular diseases. In developing countries, the prevalence of hypovitaminosis D varies widely by and within regions; prevalence ranges between 30-90%, according to the cut-off value used within specific regions, and is independent of latitude. A high prevalence of the disorder exists in China and Mongolia, especially in children, of whom up to 50% are reported to have serum 25-hydroxyvitamin D levels <12.5 nmol/l. Despite ample sunshine throughout the year, one-third to one-half of individuals living in Sub-Saharan Africa and the Middle East have serum 25-hydroxyvitamin D levels <25 nmol/l, according to studies published in the past decade. Hypovitaminosis D is also prevalent in children and the elderly living in Latin America. Risk factors for hypovitaminosis D in developing countries are similar to those reported in Western countries and include extremes of age, female sex, winter season, dark skin pigmentation, malnutrition, lack of sun exposure, a covered clothing style and obesity. Clinical trials to assess the effect of vitamin D supplementation on classical and nonclassical clinical outcomes in developing countries are needed.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Developing Countries / statistics & numerical data
  • Humans
  • Risk Factors
  • Vitamin D / analogs & derivatives
  • Vitamin D / blood
  • Vitamin D / therapeutic use
  • Vitamin D Deficiency / blood
  • Vitamin D Deficiency / drug therapy
  • Vitamin D Deficiency / epidemiology*
  • Vitamin D Deficiency / pathology


  • Vitamin D
  • 25-hydroxyvitamin D