Don't you think, these days people are suffering from vitamin D deficiency even more than before? People with interrupted bone functions or low blood count are the victims of vitamin D deficiency. Vitamin D is a fat-soluble vitamin that primarily aids in calcium absorption, mineralisation of bones and promotes growth. It is also involved in various functions of your immune system, digestive system, circulatory system and nervous system. Research suggests that vitamin D, helps in the prevention of various illnesses like depression, diabetes, cancer and heart diseases. However, its relationship to these conditions is still poorly understood.
Let's know more about vitamin D and how to increase this.
less than 20 ng/ml
It is important to understand that vitamin D deficiency has become a major global health issue.
Recent studies show that about 1 billion people worldwide have vitamin D deficiency, while almost 50% of the population has vitamin D insufficiency. About 35% adults in the United States are vitamin D deficient, whereas in India it is over 80%. Almost 90% infants in India are vitamin D deficient, as compared to 50% in the United States. In the United States, 61% elderly population as compared to almost 95% elderly population in India are vitamin D deficient.
This is more likely in people who follow strict vegan diet. Most of the natural sources of vitamin D are animal based like fish and fish oils, egg yolk, beef liver and fortified milk.
Our body makes vitamin D when our skin is exposed to sunlight. Hence people living in colder countries, or who wear long robes or head coverings for religious reasons, or have an occupation that prevents exposure to sunlight are prone to this.
Because of melanin pigment, it reduces the skin's ability to make vitamin D.
Certain kidney diseases prevent conversion of vitamin D to its active form.
People with BMI of 30 or more often have low blood vitamin D levels.
Like Crohn's disease, cystic fibrosis and celiac disease, these reduce the intestine's ability to absorb vitamin D from food.
Majority of patients with vitamin D deficiency are asymptomatic, may develop subtle symptoms or take several years before symptoms appear. Over a period, low vitamin D levels can cause:
the bones become thin and fragile, and break easily even with minor trauma. Mostly seen in elderly people
the bones become soft, leading to deformed bone, short stature, dental problems, fragile bones and pain during walking. Mostly seen in children
generalised weakness, fatigue, muscle aches, muscle twitching, depression, increased risk of cardiac problems, cognitive impairment in elderly and cancer.
Latest guidelines for the Recommended Dietary Allowance (RDA) of vitamin D is 600 International Units (IU) for everyone from age 1-70 years and 800 IU for people older than 70years to optimise bone health.
Supplements are advised to people who have vitamin D deficiency and the dose is adjusted as per the requirements by the treating doctor.
Exposure to sunlight is very important to boost the production of vitamin-D, but inappropriate exposure may increase the risk of skin cancer. For safe sunlight exposure, a person should spend a short time outdoors each day, without applying sunscreen lotions/ creams and with their forearms, hands and/or lower legs exposed to sun.
Spending some time outdoors everyday along with good dietary intake of vitamin D are the best ways to prevent the deficiency.
Other tips include:
Maintaining a healthy
lifestyle and regular exercises
Treating the medical
Conditions that cause the deficiency
Being proactive about
Prevention of osteoporosis, especially in people who have family history.
About the author: Dr. Chirag Borana is an Orthopedic Surgeon at Apollo Spectra Hospital Mumbai.
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