We are all aware in a general way about the importance of vitamins and minerals. Few of us are however aware that 90% of UAE’s population suffers from Vitamin D deficiency, based on data obtained from the International Osteoporosis Foundation. This is truly surprising in a country that has plenty of sunlight.
Vitamin D is needed by the body to absorb calcium and promote bone growth. Studies have also linked deficiency in vitamin D to weight gain, depression and certain types of cancer like prostate cancer and colon cancer.
In an effort to promote greater awareness about the importance of keeping maintaining adequate levels of vitamin D, Medeor 24×7 Hospital, Dubai is offering UAE residents free consultations and free Vitamin D tests till the 10th of February.
Speaking about the initiative, Dr. Zeeshan Khan, Specialist Internal Medicine at Medeor 24×7 Hospital, Dubai said that Vitamin D is obtained by the body either through exposure to sunlight or through supplements. If the body is deficient in vitamin D for a prolonged period, it can lead to a bone degenerating disease called osteoporosis, that makes bones weaker and increases chances for falls and fractures. In the short term, vitamin D deficiency can lead to weight gain, fatigue, joint pain especially in the back and knees, low calcium levels, reduced immunity, weak muscles and blood sugar discrepancies.
We might think that just spending a day at the beach on the weekend will result in the production of enough Vitamin D for the week. This is not true, however and overexposure to the sun can also cause dehydration, sunburn and heat stroke in extreme cases.
Dr. Khan added, “To produce Vitamin D, our body needs exposure to the sun for 8 to 10 minutes 2 or 3 times a week. The shortwave UVB rays are required for our body to produce Vitamin D and these are present at midday. During winter, a person can expose themselves to the sun from 10am to 2pm and in the summer from 2pm to 3pm. He said that as the sun is more intense during the summer months, it might be difficult for people to get adequate exposure to the sun. He recommends wearing a cap or hat while being exposed to sunlight and wiping the exposed body parts with a wet towel immediately after sun exposure.
Another factor that needs to be taken into account is the amount of melanin in the skin. Dr. Khan said that those with a darker complexion have need less exposure to the sun while those with fairer skin may need to expose themselves for a longer time in the sun. When it comes to use of sunscreens, some sunscreens can interfere with the production of Vitamin D. He recommends avoiding sunscreen for the period of exposure needed to obtain the minimum level of vitamin D
“Vitamin D deficiency can affect many of the body’s processes and in the long run have dire consequences. We hope to encourage the residents of the UAE to become proactive of their health and avail of these free checkups in order to detect and better manage the condition,” said Dr. Mohammed Berer, Medical Director at Medeor 24×7 Hospital, Dubai.
Dietary sources of vitamin D include fatty fish like salmon and tuna, egg yolks, beef liver, cheese and foods that have been fortified with vitamin D like fortified orange juice, breakfast cereal and milk. Vegetarian sources of vitamin D include some varieties of mushrooms like shiitake mushrooms, Portobello mushrooms and maitake mushrooms. The best thing about mushrooms is that their vitamin D content increases on exposure to sunlight. If all else fails, make sure you take adequate vitamin D supplement to keep you in the best possible health.
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