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Vitamin D deficiency prevalent among 19th century women in Dutch Beemster area

Dr. Barbara Veselka recently published an article on Vitamin D deficiency in 19th century skeletal remains in the International Journal of Paleopathology.


The most effective way of obtaining our daily vitamin D is by dermal synthesis due to sunlight. This would imply an absence of vitamin D deficiency in rural populations in the past where sunlight is readily available. My most recent research of a 19th century rural skeletal population from the Beemter, province of North Holland, showed a relative high prevalence of vitamin D deficiency (14,5%, 29/200), whereby the majority of affected individuals was female (72,4%, 21/29).

A complex interplay of factors caused this high prevalence, including sociocultural practices, such as gender related division in activities. It is postulated that in particular the sociocultural practices caused nonadult females in this population to have a higher risk of developing vitamin D deficiency than nonadult males. This research not only contributes to our understanding of the impact of vitamin D deficiency on Dutch populations, but also decreases the lack of data on nonadults and female individuals that often are invisible in historical records.

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