About 90 per cent of UAE’s population suffers from Vitamin D deficiency, according to data from the International Osteoporosis Federation (IOF).
The data from 2015 co-relates to a locally done study showing that the prevalence of Vitamin D deficiency is high in female adolescents in the UAE, compared to counterparts in other developed countries where people take vitamin D fortified foods and supplements.
The UAE study titled ‘Vitamin D deficiency among healthy adolescents in Al Ain’ and published in BMC Public Health online journal pointed out that although the UAE and other Gulf countries have a sunny environment, skin exposure to the sun is low, leading to vitamin D deficiency becoming one of the major public health problems.
The Dubai Health Authority (DHA) doctors have also recently published a study in the American Thoracic Society in San Francisco about their research which shows the link between supplementation of Vitamin D and improved outcomes in Asthma patients.
The study is the first-of-its-kind to be conducted in the Middle East and one of few in the world on markers of allergy and inflammation in the world.
The Sunshine Vitamin
Dr Bassam Mahboob, head of Respiratory Department at Rashid Hospital and head of Emirates Respiratory and Allergy society, headed this research.”We conducted the research on 100 chronic asthma patients and results clearly pointed out that vitamin D supplementation in the treatment of asthma reduced their symptoms and improved their condition. Vitamin D is known as the ‘sunshine vitamin’ and research increasingly points to its link with overall immunity,” he said.
Vitamin-D deficiency is also a contributing factor for cardiovascular disease, diabetes, hypertension, period problems, depression etc.
Dr Mahboob said that while it is recommended that everyone be aware of their vitamin D levels, those with chronic health conditions should keep a close eye.
About 90 per cent of a person’s recommended intake of vitamin D is produced by the body in response to the sun’s ultraviolet rays.
Dr Anwar Al Hammadi, director of Dermatology at DHA, highlighted that people with vitamin D deficiency should seek medical advice to determine the right course of treatment. “My advice would be that patients should first check their vitamin D levels, and then follow the medical practitioner’s advice. Vitamin D supplements, healthy diet and wise sun exposure is required to tackle this problem. In most cases, only sun exposure will not solve it and the level of
vitamin D is vital to decide the best course of treatment.”
Dr Nada Al Mulla, head of medical affairs unit, Barsha Primary Healthcare Centre, added that the best way to get sun exposure is during off peak hours, which is between 10 am till 3 pm. “The amount of sun exposure needed depends of the skin type as well. People with fair skin are more prone to skin cancer as they absorb the rays of the sun faster, which means they need much lesser exposure than those with tanned skin.”
However, keep in mind that sun exposure during peak hours is harmful and repeated exposure may lead to skin cancer.
Shaima Qayed, clinical dietician at Al Mizhar health centre, said fat-igue, joint pain, hair fall etc are some signs of low vitamin D. “Foods rich in vitamin D are: fortified milk, eggs, oily fish, such as salmon, sardines and tuna etc. However, food cannot be the only source of vitamin D; exposure to sunlight at off-peak hours and regular testing to check Vitamin D levels are also necessary.”