With more than two-thirds Indians suffering from Vitamin D deficiency, it is time that we took measures to prevent it, doctors tell SHALINI SAKSENA
Did you know that prevalence of Vitamin D deficiency in India touches almost 70 per cent? The reason doctors tell you is that the widely consumed food items like dairy products are rarely fortified with Vitamin D.
“Vitamin D is a fat soluble vitamin stored in the liver and fatty tissues. Increased body fat has the ability to absorb Vitamin D and keep it from being used within our body. It is different than other vitamins as our body makes most of our Vitamin D on its own, instead of solely relying on food sources. It impacts not only our skeletal structure, but also our blood pressure, immunity, mood, brain function, and ability to protect ourselves from cancer.
“Doctors have propagated that Vitamin D is required for healthy bones and teeth also. The inference suggests that a lack of it in our body can be linked to several health problems, including heart disease, depression and some cases even cancer,” Dr Vibhore Singhal, consultant orthopaedic surgeon, Columbia Asia Hospital, Gurgaon, explains.
As one is aware that lack of adequate exposure to sunlight, lactose intolerance, following a strict vegan diet are some factors that can increase risk for Vitamin D deficiency. Obtaining sufficient vitamin D from natural foods alone is difficult. This can be supported with adequate exposure to sunlight for maintaining healthy vitamin D levels. Vitamin D obtained from sun exposure, food and supplements body gets converted into a compound to activate your liver and kidney.
Interestingly, cultural and social taboos that often dictate lifestyle patterns such as clothing which may limit sun exposure also lead to deficiency in Vitamin D. “Vegetarianism also limits Vitamin D rich dietary options. Although a non-vegetarian diet can also lead to a Vitamin D deficiency. There are only certain fatty fish like Tuna, Mackerel, and Salmon that are rich in Vitamin D, which are necessarily not consumed on a daily basis. This leaves only the sun as a valid source of Vitamin D. The socio-economically backward people constitute a large percentage of the Indian population. The underprivileged generally suffer from overall poor nutrition. Vitamin D rich dietary sources are limited, inaccessible and unaffordable to most Indians. Not wanting to acquire a tanning adds to the burden of this deficiency,” Dr Singhal opines adding that adults, who shun the sun, suffer from milk allergies, or adhere to a strict vegan diet, are at risk for vitamin D deficiency.
Therefore, it is important to look for signs. “Serotonin, the brain hormone is associated with mood elevation, which rises with exposure to bright light and falls with decreased sun exposure.
“Those who significantly feel low could have a Vitamin D deficiency. If you’re overweight or obese, you’re going to need more vitamin D than a slimmer person. You may also experience aches and pains along with fatigue. Excessive sweating is also a symptom of vitamin D deficiency,” Dr Singhal says.
THE SUNSHINE VIT
Vitamin D is produced by the skin in response to exposure to ultraviolet radiation from natural sunlight
- The healing rays of natural sunlight (that generate Vitamin D in your skin) cannot penetrate glass. So you don’t generate vitamin D when sitting in your car or home.
- It is nearly impossible to get adequate amounts of vitamin D from your diet. Sunlight exposure is the only reliable way to generate Vitamin D in your own body.
- A person would have to drink 10 tall glasses of vitamin D fortified milk each day just to get minimum levels of Vitamin D into their diet.
- The further you live from the equator, the longer exposure you need to the sun in order to generate Vitamin D. Canada, the UK and most US. States are far from the equator.
- People with dark skin pigmentation may need 20-30 times as much exposure to sunlight as fair-skinned people to generate the same amount of Vitamin D. That's why prostate cancer is epidemic among black men —it’s a simple, but widespread, sunlight deficiency.
- Sufficient levels of Vitamin D are crucial for calcium absorption in your intestines. Without sufficient Vitamin D, your body cannot absorb calcium, rendering calcium supplements useless.
- Chronic Vitamin D deficiency cannot be reversed overnight: It takes months of Vitamin D supplementation and sunlight exposure to rebuild the body's bones and nervous system.
- Even weak sunscreens (SPF 8) block your body's ability to generate Vitamin D by 95 per cent. This is how sunscreen products actually cause disease — by creating a critical vitamin deficiency in the body.
- It is impossible to generate too much Vitamin D in your body from sunlight exposure: Your body will self-regulate and only generate what it needs.
- If it hurts to press firmly on your sternum(chest/breast bone), you may be suffering from chronic Vitamin D deficiency right now.
- Vitamin D is ‘activated’ in your body by your ‘kidneys and liver’ before it can be used.
- Having kidney disease or liver damage can greatly impair your body's ability to activate circulating Vitamin D.
- The sunscreen industry doesn't want you to know that your body actually needs sunlight exposure because that realisation would mean lower sales of sunscreen products.
- Even though Vitamin D is one of the most powerful healing chemicals in your body, your body makes it absolutely free. No prescription required.
- Vitamin D promotes the absorption of calcium in the gut and maintains adequate calcium and phosphate concentrations to enable normal mineralisation in the bones. Without it, bones become thin, brittle and misshapen
- The other roles of Vitamin D in the body are modulation of cell growth, neuromuscular and immune function, and reduction of inflammation
- Vitamin D deficiency is likely to play an important role in the very high prevalence of rickets, osteoporosis, cardiovascular diseases, diabetes, cancer and infections like tuberculosis
5 FACTS TO KNOW
- Sunlight is the only valid source of Vitamin D
- One hour of full body exposure is needed everyday
- Sunlight coming through glass window is useless
- It is not excreted easily from the body so avoid excess supplements. 500 to 2,000 international units are needed depending on body type and gender
- It also helps in curing depression and certain other diseases like flu and cancer
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