Why Vitamin D deficiency is high among Saudis

Many chronic diseases are linked to vitamin D deficiency, such as heart disease, diabetes and osteoporosis

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Although Saudi Arabia is a sunny country, vitamin D deficiency is highly prevalent among Saudis, according to a Saudi physician.

Dr. Ahmad Khan, consultant orthopedic surgeon at King Faisal Hospital in Makkah, stressed the need to compensate vitamin D deficiency either through increased exposure to sun or with a diet rich in vitamin D along with food supplements recommended by doctors.

Dr. Khan confirmed that many people, especially women, are not aware of the health risks resulting from a lack of vitamin D. Many chronic diseases are linked to vitamin D deficiency, such as heart disease, diabetes and osteoporosis.

As vitamin D is a powerful natural antioxidant and acts as a stimulant for the immune system, some researches have clarified the relationship between vitamin D deficiency and the incidence of serious health conditions, such as breast, colon and prostate cancers, lung and liver diseases, kidney failures, psoriasis and hypertension.

Studies also warned about the high prevalence of vitamin D deficiency in other societies, especially Gulf states.

A statement issued by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC) showed that one in three people is at risk of vitamin D deficiency, which is a frightful rate.

Khan explained that in addition to the sun’s rays, certain foods and dietary supplements are responsible for regulating the amount of calcium in the body, which contributes to bone growth and formation, and stimulating the immune system.

On the other hand, deficiency of vitamin D causes significant health risks, especially in the first stages of life when the body requires high amounts of nutrients such as vitamins to strengthen it.

Khan pointed out the importance of exposure to sunlight for 10 to 15 minutes daily in early morning hours and before the sunset. He also stressed the need to eating foods that contain vitamin D, such as oily fish like salmon, tuna and sardines, cod liver oil, cheese, mushrooms, foods fortified with vitamin D, like chips and some dairy products, egg yolk and soy.

Vitamin D supplements including capsules and drops are recommended in extreme cases. However, the daily requirement of vitamin D varies according to age groups. Children until puberty need around 500 units a day, while adults until the age of 65 need 800 units a day.

Vitamin D Day is a great opportunity for various government and private sectors in the Kingdom to contribute to raising awareness about this important nutrient.

This article was first published in the Saudi Gazette on Nov. 9, 2015.

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