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How do you recognize a vitamin D deficiency? 
In the winter months, we all spend less time outside or we leave the house wrapped up. The sun also fails more often and that influences the production of vitamin D. This is one of the few vitamins that the body produces itself under the influence of sunlight. Many people suffer from vitamin D deficiency. For example, it turned out that in the winter period of 2010-2012 almost 60% of residents in the southwest of the Netherlands had a vitamin D deficiency [i]. But how do you actually recognize a vitamin D deficiency? 

Recognizing Vitamin D Deficiency 

In young children, a deficiency of vitamin D can cause abnormal skeletal growth. We call this rickets (or also the English disease). Due to the lack of vitamin D and calcium, weak bones and muscles develop during growth. 
In adults and the elderly, a vitamin D deficiency can cause osteoporosis, muscle weakness, and weaker teeth. Weak muscles increase the risk of falls and frac­tures. At an older age, your vertebrae can also collapse, causing you to experi­ence discomfort. 
Tiredness or discomfort in your muscles and/or joints are also possible indica­tions of a vitamin D deficiency. Or you can be a bit depressed or experience a winter dip. Sufficient vitamin D in your body supports your immune system and contributes to good resistance. Reduced resistance can indicate a shortage. 

What is the difference between microgram, µg, and IE? 
There are various indications of quantities on the packaging. IE stands for interna­tional units. 400 IU=10 micrograms (or µg) and 800 IU = 20 micrograms (or µg).


Vitamin D in food and nutritional supplements 

There are different forms of vitamin 0. The two most important are cholecalciferol (vitamin 03) and ergocalciferol (vitamin 02). Vitamin 03 is formed in the skin and is naturally found in a number of foods. Examples of this are fatty fish, meat, and eggs. In the Netherlands, vitamin 03 is also added to low-fat margarine, marga­rine, and baking butter. For example, 100 grams of smoked mackerel fillet con­tains 8.2 micrograms of vitamin 03. Vitamin 02 was widely used in the past in the fortification of foods. Vitamin 02 has now been largely replaced by (synthetic) vitamin 03. Dietary supplements often contain vitamin 03. 

[1] Source [1] Boonman-De Winter LJM, Albersen A, Morhmann K, Bakx-Van Baal GMAC, Meijer Timmerman Thijssen OW, Bressers JPHM. High prevalence of vitamin D deficiency in the southwest of the Netherlands. Ned Tijdschr Geneesknd 2015; 159: A8167

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