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Age and gender differences in the prevalence and correlates of vitamin D deficiency



Younger adults and males had a higher prevalence of vitamin D deficiency compared to older participants and females. Low intake of milk, central obesity, and lack of use of vitamin D supplements were associated with vitamin D deficiency, highlighting potentially important avenues for preventive intervention.


Vitamin D deficiency is a public health concern. This study’s objective was to measure the prevalence of vitamin D deficiency and determine its correlates among Saudi adults in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia.


A cross-sectional study was conducted with 2835 Saudi males and females aged 30–75 years in 18 different primary health care centers (PHCC) in Riyadh. Detailed interviews on sociodemographic and lifestyle factors and anthropometric measurements were conducted. Serum calcium, phosphorus, parathyroid, alkaline phosphatase, and 25(OH) vitamin D were measured. Multiple logistic regression analyses were conducted.


The mean age (SD) of male and female participants was 43.0 (± 11.7) and 42.8 (± 10.3) years, respectively. Serum 25(OH) vitamin D assays for participants revealed that 72.0% (n = 695) of males and 64.0% (n = 1191) of females had levels < 50 nmol/L (deficiency), whereas 17.3% (n = 166) and 19.4% (n = 362), respectively, had levels of 50–75 nmol/L (insufficiency). Multivariate analyses for males revealed that lack of use of vitamin D supplements [adjusted odds ratio (aOR) = 4.0, 95% CI 1.7, 9.4], younger age [30–40 years aOR = 3.6, 95% CI 1.7, 7.3 and 41–50 years aOR = 4.2, 95% CI 2.0, 8.8], low milk intake [aOR = 1.7, 95% CI 1.0, 2.8], consumption of cola drinks [aOR = 2.0, 95% CI 1.1, 3.9], and central obesity [aOR = 1.8, 95% CI 1.0, 3.4] were associated with low vitamin D. In females, lack of use of vitamin D supplements [aOR = 3.7, 95% CI 2.8, 4.9], younger age [30–40 years aOR = 3.4, 95% CI 2.0, 5.8 and 41–50 years aOR = 2.8, 95% CI 1.6, 4.7], central obesity [aOR = 1.4, 95% CI 1.0, 2.2], and seasonal variation [aOR = 1.6, 95% CI 1.3, 2.1] had higher odds for vitamin D deficiency. Significantly lower levels were observed for men than women for mean serum 25(OH) vitamin D [42.6 (± 24.1) vs. 46.8 (± 30.5)], parathyroid hormone [5.3 (± 2.9) vs. 5.9 (± 2.7)], and phosphorus [1.1 (± 0.2) vs. 1.2 (± 0.2)], respectively; alkaline phosphatase levels [106 (± 32.8) vs. 99 (± 27.8)] [p < 0.01] were significantly higher in males than females.


Vitamin D deficiency was highly prevalent, particularly among young adults and those with central obesity. Proper fortification policy, health education, and regular screening PHCCs may help prevent and treat vitamin D deficiency.

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Availability of data and material

The datasets generated and/or analyzed during the current study are not publicly available because it includes personal information of the participants but are available from the corresponding author on reasonable request.


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We shall like to thank the Deanship of Research Chairs program, College of Medicine, King Saud University, for facilitating us in conducting this important research. We shall like to acknowledge the Princess Nora Research Chair for Women Health Research for their support and cooperation in conducting this study. We wish to express our appreciation for the efforts of Prof. Ellen B. Gold for reviewing the manuscript and for Mrs Maha Younis and Mr Bushra Abdulwahab for their efforts in supervising the research assistants, collecting the samples, sending it to the lab and arranging other logistics related to the project. We thank all the participants for their time and cooperation.


This study was financially supported by the Deanship of Research Chair Program, King Saud University, Riyadh. The funding agency had no role in the design of the study and collection, analysis, and interpretation of data and in writing the manuscript.

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Authors and Affiliations



JAQ conceptualized the study, wrote the proposal, supervised the data collection, and participated in write-up and critical review of the manuscript; AK supervised the training and data collection, conducted the analysis, and participated in the write-up; MF was involved in the proposal writing, conducting the trainings, write-up of discussion, and critical review of the manuscript; NA was involved in the write-up and critical review of the whole manuscript.

Corresponding author

Correspondence to Ambreen Kazi.

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Ethical approval and consent to participate

The study protocol was approved by the Institutional Review Board, King Saud University (E-12-658) and the Institutional Review Board of the Ministry of Health, Dammam (IRB ID MOH0151). Participants were enrolled in the study after they read, understood, and signed the consent form.

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The consent form included statement related to processing and publication of data for a scientific research paper.

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AlQuaiz, A.M., Kazi, A., Fouda, M. et al. Age and gender differences in the prevalence and correlates of vitamin D deficiency. Arch Osteoporos 13, 49 (2018).

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  • Vitamin D deficiency
  • Age
  • Gender differences
  • Supplements
  • Carbonated drinks
  • Seasonal variation