The prevalence of Vitamin D deficiency is reported worldwide, both in sunshine deficient and sunshine sufficient countries. Still, it is the most underdiagnosed and undertreated nutritional deficiency in the world. However, various studies showed poor Vitamin D status irrespective of age, sex, and geography.
Causes of Vitamin D Deficiency:
Vitamin D deficiency in India, a sunshine country has been a recent phenomenon but now Vitamin D deficiency is quite rampant in India. Apart from low intake in diet, people with liver, kidney and skin disorders also have Vitamin D deficiency. There are many reasons for it being so common in our country.
- Increased indoor lifestyle, thereby preventing adequate exposure to sunlight. This is mainly in the urban population due to modernization.
- Pollution can hamper the synthesis of Vitamin D in the skin by UV rays.
- Changing food habits contribute to low dietary calcium and Vitamin D intake
- Phytates and phosphates which are present in fiber rich diet, can deplete Vitamin D stores and increase calcium requirement
- Increased skin pigmentation and application of sunscreens
- Cultural practices such as the burqa and purdah system
- Unspaced and unplanned pregnancies in women with dietary deficit can lead to worsening of Vitamin D status in both mother and child.
Consequences of Vitamin D Deficiency:
Symptoms of bone pain and muscle weakness can mean a deficiancy of vitamin D deficiency. Even without symptoms, too little vitamin D can pose health risks. Low blood levels of the vitamin have been associated with the following:
Increased risk of death from cardiovascular disease
Cognitive impairment in older adults
Severe asthma in children
Research suggests that vitamin D could play a role in the prevention and treatment of a number of different conditions, including type1 and type 2 diabetes, hypertension, glucose intolerance, and multiple sclerosis.
India being a tropical country has adequate sunshine. Most of the Indian population live in areas with adequate sunlight throughout the year and are expected to have adequate Vitamin D. Contrary to this, the prevalence of Vitamin D deficiency is high in India.
Treatment for Vitamin D Deficiency:
Treatment for vitamin D deficiency involves getting more vitamin D — through diet and supplements. Although there is no consensus on vitamin D levels required for optimal health and it likely to differ based on age and health conditions.
If you don’t spend much time in the sun or always are careful to cover your skin (sunscreen inhibits vitamin D production), you should speak to your doctor about taking a vitamin D supplement, particularly if you have risk factors for vitamin D deficiency.
Educational programs are a must to create awareness about Vitamin D deficiency as it is the most underdiagnosed and undertreated nutritional disease. Both physicians and the public should be made aware of its implications.
School going children should be made aware about the need for Vitamin D sufficiency and healthy lifestyle. Let us take charge of our own health.
Foods rich in Vitamin D:
Cod liver oil, and fish such as sardines, trout, hilsa, salmon, sword fish, mackerel, and tuna, are good sources of vitamin D. Egg yolk (both chicken and quail are good too). Mushrooms are the only known plant food that naturally has the vitamin. Leaving them out, be in the sun for about 15 to 30 minutes increases levels of Vit D.
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