Indians are often found to be deficient in Vitamin-D.
A recent study by pediatricians from All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS), New Delhi, found Vitamin-D deficiency in 81.1 % mothers and 66.7 % breastfed infants.
Some say, it's a strange phenomenon given the fact that we are a sun abundant country and sunlight is the main source of Vitamin-D.
Also read: Why most Indians are vitamin D deficient
We say, it's not strange at all. If you are one of those office-goers with a regular desk job then, your chance of daily exposure to sunlight is at its minimum. And sadly, as a nation that suffers from skin-colour fixation it is kind of predictable.
The question is, how do you get the required Vitamin-D dosage? You might want to include fatty fish such as herring, mackerel, sardines and tuna in your daily diet, but it still won't solve your problem as it is found in very small amounts.
And what about the normal working class or the vegetarians? They can't afford to have it, right?
We give you an insight into why the 'sunshine' Vitamin is imperative for superior health and how you can include it in your diet:
How it affects your health
Experts say Vitamin-D deficiency not only impacts bone health but is also an emerging risk factor for diabetes, coronary heart disease, heart failure and high blood pressure. One of the most frequent diseases in many developing countries is 'rickets' and 'Osteoporosis' (brittle bones).
Dr Rajeev K Sharma, Senior Consultant, Orthopedics & Joint Replacement Surgeon, Indraprastha Apollo Hospitals, New Delhi, said" A large number of people suffer from weak bones and osteoporosis because of Vitamin-D deficiency. Rickets is one bone related disorder that causes deformity or fractures, which is due to Vitamin-D deficiency. It is characterised by defective mineralisation of bones."
Vitamin-D is instrumental in helping the body absorb calcium which is the main mineral component of the bones. In the absence of Vitamin-D the metabolism of the body fails to utilise calcium effectively. Over a long term it leads to weak bones and a condition called osteoporosis or 'porous bones'.
Symptoms of bone pain and muscle weakness can point towards a Vitamin-D deficiency. But, in most people symptoms are subtle and rarely manifest themselves. In many people, this deficiency is discovered when they suffer a fracture and are found to have weak bones.
He further added, "If there is a history of osteoporosis in your family, and even if there is none, it is important to be careful about bone health. Once in a while it is advisable to get vitamin-D levels tested and bone mineral density test done to determine the health of the bones."
Vitamin D: the sunshine vitamin
How it affects your skin
Vitamin-D, as we all know, is extremely crucial for the health and strength of our bones as it catalyses calcium absorption. But, vitamin deficiency is also associated with some forms of skin problems like itchy, flaky skin. Lack of Vitamin-D hampers the normal functioning of the body's immune system and this may also make the skin susceptible to infections and interfere with the normal healing processes.
Dr Chiranjiv Chhabra, leading Delhi based dermatologist, SkinAlive Clinics says, "Psoriasis is accompanied by red, scaly patches on the skin and flakes that are often itchy. Sometimes, disturbances in the immune system also prompt the oil glands to produce extra oil in the skin, causing acne."
There is an increased focus on using sunscreen in our country to protect the skin against pre-mature ageing and other harmful effects of UV radiation. This is a good thing. However, in some people regular use of sunblock also acts as a deterrent for Vitamin-D generation on sun exposure. The easy solution is to wear sunscreen but find a few minutes regularly to spend under the sun.
Also read: Shortcuts to top up on the elusive vitamin D
Source of Vit-D
Sun remains the most abundant source of Vitamin-D. When our skin is exposed to sunlight, it manufactures Vitamin-D. Besides being crucial to bone health, it is also important for the healthy functioning of the body's immune system.
Dr Sharma said, "Lack of sun exposure is a major factor why young urban Indians are growing up with weak bones. The sun, a major source of Vitamin-D, is abundant in India. Yet, the tendency to stay indoors during day time cuts out this useful resource. Spending 15 minutes under the sun daily can help replenish Vitamin D in the body, which is crucial for calcium absorption into the bones."
Other sources of Vit-D include fish, cod liver oil and eggs. Special Vit-D enriched milk and juices are available in the market too.
How to balance Vit-D supplements
Dr Muhammed Majeed, Founder and Chairman, Sami Group, said, "In today's extra health conscious world where people are always concerned about their looks and health, the health supplements come in with great relief! This is a good way to get Vitamin-D if one can't get enough sunlight, or if one is worried about exposing his/her skin."
He further added, "The RDA of Vitamin D under the situations of minimal exposure to sunlight, a specific recommendation of a daily supplement of 400 IU (10 µg) is recommended."