Objective: To review data on the prevalence of vitamin D inadequacy and its causes in postmenopausal women in Eastern Asia. Research design and method: Data were obtained from the published biomedical literature as well as abstracts and posters presented at scientific meetings. Using MEDLINE, EMBASE and BIOSIS databases (to July 2007), epidemiological studies were identified using the search terms: 'human', 'vitamin D', 'vitamin D deficiency', 'vitamin D inadequacy', 'vitamin D insufficiency' and 'hypovitaminosis D', 'osteomalacia' and 'osteoporosis'. Additional references were also identified from the bibliographies of published articles. Results: The prevalence of vitamin D inadequacy in studies of postmenopausal women (ambulatory or with osteoporosis or related musculoskeletal disorders) in Eastern Asia ranged from 0 to 92%, depending on the cut-off level of serum 25-hydroxychotecalciferol [25(OH)D] that was applied (range ≤6-35 ng/mL [≤ 15-87 nmol/L]). One large international study found that 71% of postmenopausal women with osteoporosis in Eastern Asia had vitamin D inadequacy, defined as serum levels of 25(OH)D < 30 ng/mL (75 nmol/L). Prevalence rates using this cut-off level were 47% in Thailand, 49% in Malaysia, 90% in Japan and 92% in South Korea. High prevalences of vitamin D inadequacy were evident in two studies using a lower 25(OH)D level cut-off value of < 12 ng/mL (30 nmol/L) - 21% in China and 57% in South Korea. Dietary deficiency and inadequate exposure or reactivity to sunlight (due to lifestyle choices, cultural customs and/or aging) were identified as important risk factors for vitamin D inadequacy. Conclusions: Non-uniform, epidemiological studies indicate a high prevalence of vitamin D inadequacy in postmenopausal women in Eastern Asia. Recommended remedial approaches are education campaigns and broad-based provision of vitamin D supplementation.
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