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Deficiency of Vitamin D in Oman.

by Swati Dasgupta/ Mainly oily fish like salmon, sword fish, and mackerel help in giving us vitamin D.

Do you experience aches and pains in your joints, bones, and muscles periodically? Do you often feel tired, fatigued, and depressed? How often do you ignore these discomforts? A simple blood test can tell if your body is low in vitamin D.

Vitamin D is an essential vitamin, the deficiency of which can cause serious diseases like cancer, cardiovascular disease, osteoarthritis, and autoimmune disorders. It is also linked with multiple sclerosis, diabetes, depression, and schizophrenia.

Vitamin D deficiency tops in the list of the most diagnosed health problems in the Middle East, and also in Oman. According to the reports of Vitamin D Council, vitamin D deficiency is very common in Oman. Being close to the north of the equator, though the geographical location of the Sultanate is beneficial for people to produce vitamin D, its deficiency is still very rampant in this region as exposure to direct sunlight is very limited. The researchers recommended combating the deficiency with better sun exposure habits, more fortified food, and better supplementation habits.

So are you getting enough vitamin D? While assessing vitamin D still does not fall in category of regular medical checkups, knowledge about one's vitamin D status is one of the most important health-protecting steps. All you need to do is a simple blood test that can tell if your body is low in vitamin D.

The fact that makes vitamin D all the more important is that our bodies doesn't make it, and we need to get it from our environment.

While the primary source of vitamin D is the sun, we can also get it from some foods. Highlighting this, Jishy Seby, diet consultant at KIMS Oman Hospital, said that in Oman even exclusively breastfed newborns lack in vitamin D because breast milk is deficient in it.

"They should be supplemented with 400IU (International units) of vitamin D till they are weaned," she said.

While children need vitamin D to build strong bones and prevent rickets, adolescents and adults too need them and are equally at risk of developing a deficiency because of lack of exposure to sun.

"The possible ways to prevent vitamin D deficiency is to make sure one gets some sun exposure and to make the diet rich in vitamin D rich or vitamin D fortified foods," she adds.

Vitamin D helps the body absorb calcium from foods. In older adults a daily dose of calcium and vitamin D prevents fractures and brittle bones. Children need vitamin D to build strong bones and prevent rickets, a cause of bowed legs, knock knees and weak bones. Researchers also link between low levels of vitamin D and multiple sclerosis which is an auto immune disorder which affects nerves. "There is also a link between low vitamin D and higher incidence of Type 2 diabetes. Obesity also leads to vitamin D deficiency because body fat traps vitamin D making it less available for body," she tells.

Vitamin D is also essential for brain development. It helps in keeping depression away. Recent studies shows that people with high levels of vitamin D have low risk of having colon cancer and prostate cancer. Most of the vitamin D is produced in body from sun exposure.

Fair skin has greater advantage in converting sunshine into vitamin D. Vitamin D in sunlight is high between 11am to 3pm and exposure to sun for 10 to 15 minutes can make daily vitamin D.

Glass is a barrier for vitamin D, so avoid window side and avoid sunscreens since that will also prevent the body from absorbing vitamin D. Talking about the nutrition that can help in giving us vitamin D, Jishy Seby lists few vitamin D rich foods. These include mainly oily fish like salmon, sword fish, and mackerel.

"Small amounts of vitamin D are present in sardines, tuna, egg yolk, beef liver, fortified cereals, and milk products," she informs. Sun grown mushrooms also contain some amounts of vitamin D.

The adult recommended dose is 600IU of vitamin D till the age of 70 and 800 IU above that age. The vitamin D can be checked for anyone by blood test and if found to be low can be easily supplemented with vitamin D supplements, says the diet consultant.

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Publication:Times of Oman (Muscat, Oman)
Geographic Code:7OMAN
Date:Apr 9, 2016
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