BACKGROUND: Inadequate levels of vitamin D (VTD) throughout the life cycle from the fetal stage to adulthood have been correlated with elevated risk for assorted health afflictions. The purpose of this study was to ascertain VTD status and associated determinants in three clinical practice populations living in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada--a locale with latitude of 53 degrees 30'N, where sun exposure from October through March is often inadequate to generate sufficient vitamin D.

METHODS: To determine VTD status, 1,433 patients from three independent medical offices in Edmonton had levels drawn for 25(OH)D as part of their medical assessment between Jun 2001 and Mar 2007. The relationship between demographic data and lifestyle parameters with VTD status was explored. 25(OH)D levels were categorized as follows: (1) Deficient: <40 nmol/L; (2) Insufficient (moderate to mild): 40 to <80 nmol/L; and (3) Adequate: 80-250 nmol/L. Any cases <25 nmol/L were subcategorized as severely deficient for purposes of further analysis.

RESULTS: 240 (16.75% of the total sample) of 1,433 patients were found to be VTD 'deficient' of which 48 (3.35% of the overall sample) had levels consistent with severe deficiency. 738 (51.5% of the overall sample) had 'insufficiency' (moderate to mild) while only 31.75% had 'adequate' 25(OH)D levels. The overall mean for 25(OH) D was 68.3 with SD=28.95. VTD status was significantly linked with demographic and lifestyle parameters including skin tone, fish consumption, milk intake, sun exposure, tanning bed use and nutritional supplementation.

CONCLUSION: A high prevalence of hypovitaminosis-D was found in three clinical practice populations living in Edmonton. In view of the potential health sequelae associated with widespread VTD inadequacy, strategies to facilitate translation of emerging epidemiological information into clinical intervention need to be considered in order to address this public health issue. A suggested VTD supplemental intake level is presented for consideration.