Vitamin D deficiency is a globally important problem, particularly in children, but there is a lack of information regarding this deficiency in preschool children from southeastern Europe. This study aimed to establish the levels of 25-hydroxyvitamin D (25(OH)D) and associations of gender, time spent outdoors, physical activity (PA), and body mass index (as predictors) with the 25(OH)D level (outcome) in healthy preschool children. The participants were preschoolers (all 5⁻6 years of age) from southern Croatia. All the participants were tested during their mandatory medical examination 6⁻7 months prior to school enrollment. The PA was obtained using the preschool-age physical activity questionnaire (Pre-PAQ), which categorizes PA into five levels (from sedentary to vigorous PA). The prevalence of 25(OH)D deficiency was high: 58% of the children had 25(OH)D levels of <50 nmol/L (deficiency), and an additional 29% had an insufficient level of 25(OH)D (50⁻75 nmol/L). Boys had higher levels of 25(OH)D than girls. A multinomial regression using 25(OH)D categories as the outcome and a sufficient level (>75 nmol/L) as the reference value identified gender as the only significant predictor of 25(OH)D status, with boys being at lower risk for 25(OH)D deficiency than girls. These results showed a high prevalence of 25(OH)D deficiency in preschoolers from the southern part of Croatia, which is additionally alarming based on the geographical position of the studied region (42° N) and its high number of sunshine hours (>2600 h per year). Future studies examining other potential correlates of 25(OH)D in the region are warranted.
Keywords: 25(OH)D; body mass index; physical activity; preschool children; prevalence.