Tackling vitamin D deficiency – The National
Despite abundant sunlight year-round, vitamin D deficiency has long been an issue in the UAE. The country has one of the world’s highest levels of the disorder, with recent statistics showing that 78 per cent of the population is affected. There will, therefore, be some concern that health insurer Daman has stopped covering tests to detect it, except in cases of patients with ailments such as osteoporosis, rickets and kidney disease.
As well as the health risks directly associated with vitamin D deficiency – including malabsorption, osteomalacia, various cancers and autoimmune diseases – it is linked to several other problems. Tackling vitamin D deficiency may help in treating cardiac disease, high blood pressure and lifestyle conditions such as Type 2 diabetes, which affects 19 per cent of the population. The latest World Health Organisation figures reveal that diabetes accounts for 3 per cent of all deaths in this country.
Since tackling Vitamin D deficiency will have a positive knock-on effect, it ought to be a national priority. The good news is that that should not be difficult – as long as we are prepared to make small changes to the way we live and what we eat.
Increasing exposure to sunlight is as simple as stepping outside – although this can be challenging in the summer. It can also present a problem for women who keep their bodies fully covered. However, they can go to female-only venues, such as Al Bateen beach. It may be necessary to create other spaces for them. We should also promote research into ways we can get the correct dose of sunlight all year without being exposed to the risk of heat stroke. Perhaps it is possible to develop a special type of glass that allows through the UVB rays that trigger vitamin D production.
Awareness campaigns could encourage people to eat vitamin D-rich foods, including dairy products, mushrooms, oil-rich fish and egg yolks. These sensible measures will stave off vitamin D deficiency in most cases. And, of course, eating better and taking exercise in the sun will make us all that much healthier overall.