Healthy Living, Wellness

Vitamin D Deficiency: Prevalence, Causes, and Prevention

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By Mohammed AlSalem
Vitamin D, or the sunshine vitamin, has a significant role in maintaining optimum health. Having sufficient levels of vitamin D helps our bodies manage several important functions. The most important of which is regulating the absorption of calcium and phosphorus from the intestines, giving us strong bones and teeth.

Also, research is increasingly revealing the importance of vitamin D as an immunity booster and a host protector.

What’s the status of vitamin D in Saudi Arabia?

Although Saudi Arabia is one of the sunniest places on earth, yet we are hearing quite often about vitamin D deficiency.

Unfortunately however, there are no sufficient data to exactly determine the scope of the issue nationally. Few studies have been conducted at specific areas of the kingdom and their results suggest moderate to severe vitamin D deficiency of 60-80% of the population. [1,2,3]

What causes vitamin D deficiency?

Vitamin D deficiency can occur as a result of several reasons. Here are the most common ones:

  • Limited sun exposure. The body makes vitamin D when the skin is exposed to sunlight. So you might be at risk if you’re homebound, escape the sun, or have an occupation that prevents sun exposure.
  • Not enough vitamin D in the diet. Most of the natural sources of vitamin D are animal-based, including fish, egg yolks, cheese, and milk. So if you follow a strict vegan diet or you’re not a big fan of dairy products, it’s likely that you’re not getting enough amounts of the natural vitamin D.

How would you know the level of vitamin D in your body?

A blood test is the most accurate way to measure the level of vitamin D in the body. The normal range is 20 to 50 nanograms/milliliter. A level less than 12 ng/mL indicates vitamin D deficiency.

What are the signs of vitamin D deficiency?

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  • Muscle and bone pain
  • Excessive sweating
  • Feeling down most of the time
  • Tiredness or fatigue
  • Weight gain
  • Poor concentration
  • Restless sleep 

How to prevent vitamin D deficiency?

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  1. Get your daily dose of sun exposure 
  • 10-15 minutes is all you need.
  • Do not wear sun-screen or stay behind a glass window.
  • Never stay out in the sun for extended periods of time or during the hottest part of the day, avoid sunburn and develop a tolerance to the sun slowly. 
  1. Include foods that are rich in vitamin D in your diet
  • Salmon
  • Tuna
  • Fortified milk
  • Fortified orange juice
  • Egg yolk
  • Beef liver 

1. Ardawi MS, Sibiany AM, Bakhsh TM, Qari MH, Maimani AA. High prevalence of vitamin D deficiency among healthy Saudi Arabian men: relationship to bone mineral density, parathyroid hormone, bone turnover markers, and lifestyle factors. Osteoporosis International. 2012 Feb 1;23(2):675-86.

2. Siddiqui AM, Kamfar HZ. Prevalence of vitamin D deficiency rickets in adolescent school girls in Western region, Saudi Arabia. Saudi medical journal. 2007;28(3):441-4.
3. Ardawi MS, Qari MH, Rouzi AA, Maimani AA, Raddadi RM. Vitamin D status in relation to obesity, bone mineral density, bone turnover markers and vitamin D receptor genotypes in healthy Saudi pre-and postmenopausal women. Osteoporosis international. 2011 Feb 1;22(2):463-75.

 

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