Vitamin D and health
Author: Dr.S.Boopathi MD, DNB, MRCPCH
What is Vitamin D
Also known sunshine vitamin, vitamin D is produced by the body in response to exposure of our skin to sunlight. Vitamin D occurs naturally in foods such as Fish, Cod Liver oil, egg yolks, Cheese, Orange juice and in fortified dairy and grain products.
What is the role of Vitamin D
Vitamin D helps our body in the absorption and use calcium from the diet. Severe Vitamin D deficiency causes rickets, a disease in which the bone tissue doesn’t properly mineralize, leading to soft bones and bone deformities. Recently vitamin D deficiency is known to be associated with many health problems such as increased risk of heart diseases, diabetes, cancer and infections such as tuberculosis, ear infections etc. Also Vitamin D deficiency is thought to be associated with increased daytime sleepiness, reduced brain function and overweight/obesity.
How common is Vitamin D deficiency among Indians and what are the reasons?
Vitamin D deficiency is very common in India with a prevalence of 70%–100% in the general population. Despite plenty of sun the reasons for such a wide prevalence is thought to be
Reduced consumption of Vitamin D containing Foods:
This is highly possible if you are a vegetarian and consume less of the foods above. Also there is no fortification of the food products available in India with Vitamin D
Reduced Sun exposure and changing lifestyles:
For Indian skin tone, we need “direct sun exposure” for more than 45 minimum to bare face, arms and legs for the body to produce enough Vitamin D. This is not possible in modern day lifestyle
Vitamin D deficiency in mothers–
Increases risk of your baby for being Vitamin D deficient if breastfed.
How can we check for Vitamin D deficiency
This can be done by a blood test.
How to prevent Vitamin D deficiency
Increase sun exposure- This may not be possible for everyone
Supplementation of Vitamin D- There are many preperations and doses of Vitamin D available in the market. Supplemention for infants and young children in doses 400-800IU per day is recommended. Please consult with your doctor. Excess Vitamin D intake as supplement is dangerous for health.
There is still plenty of research going on in this topic and results are awaited
Ritu G Vitamin D Deficiency in India: Prevalence, Causalities and Interventions. Nutrients. 2014 Feb; 6(2): 729–775.
Babu US.Modern India and the vitamin D dilemma: evidence for the need of a national food fortification program. Mol Nutr Food Res. 2010 Aug;54(8):1134-47.