Vitamin D is a fat-soluble vitamin which is essentially required in our diet. It is required for keeping our bones strong, maintain mineralization of bones and proper functioning of organs like heart, kidney and brain. Vitamin D is found in foods like eggs, milk, fatty fish, mushrooms and fortified foods. Sunlight is also an abundant source of Vitamin D.
Vitamin D deficiency has a high prevalence rate in India. A study conducted by Ritu G and Ajay Gupta in 2014 stated that 70%-100% of population in Indian subcontinent suffers from vitamin D deficiency. Such high prevalence rate also gives rise to diseases like cardiovascular disorders, diabetes, cancer, etc. in the long run. Another study was conducted by Aparna et al in 2018 to determine vitamin D deficiency in India. They also observed that this vitamin deficiency ranges from 40%-99%. As data mentioned in the document released by AIIMS, it was mentioned that 86% of infants between 0-3 months are deficient in vitamin D and among children of 2-5 years prevalence rate is 61.4%. Similarly, pregnant and lactating women were also reported as vitamin D deficient with the prevalence rate of 74% and 47.8%, respectively.
Now the question arises what are the reasons of such high deficiency rate. Let’s discuss some of them.
- Lack of adequate sources in the diet. Vitamin D is mostly found in non-vegetarian foods and high percentage of Indian population is vegetarian. Moreover, consumption of vitamin D fortified foods is also not high among Indian population.
- As we all know that adequate sun exposure is necessary to meet daily needs of vitamin D, but now-a-days people do not prefer going out in sunlight. We are more confined to air-conditioned homes and offices. Even for travelling short distances, people prefer using a vehicle over walking.
- Ultra-violet B radiations of sunlight catalyses the conversion of 7-dehydrocholesterol in our skin into the active form of vitamin D. This absorption rate also depends upon the colour of skin, ie, melanin content. Lighter is the skin colour, more is the absorption. Indians have a dusky skin colour which also reduces the penetration of UV B radiations in our skin. Additionally, timing and duration of sun exposure also matters in determining the adequate synthesis of vitamin D in our body.
- Excess usage of sunscreen creams and lotions also play a crucial role. The are marketed by the number of their SPF content. These sun protecting films acts as a barrier between our skin and prevents or reduces the entry of UV B rays in our body.
- Another important and important factor which is responsible for this widespread deficiency is air pollution. We all are the sufferers of air pollution. Delhi comes under one of the most polluted cities in the world. The AQI levels are getting worse day-by-day. Presence of smoke, chemicals, toxins and other environmental pollutants in the air forms a layer in our atmosphere. This prevents the entry of sun rays into Earth’s atmosphere.
How to combat the situation?
Here are some of the effective measures or ways with which this situation can be tackled. It is not difficult to treat the deficiency of vitamin D and maintain a healthy level in the body.
- Food fortification should be done and effective guidelines should be adopted for fortifying the foods.
- It is important to create awareness about the importance of vitamin D. People should be educated regarding the consequences of vitamin D deficiency and why it is necessary to consume a vitamin D rich diet.
- Choosing vitamin D supplements is another effective, affordable and easily accessible way to treat or prevent low levels of vitamin D. Vitamin D supplements are widely available these days. Person should choose the dosage of these supplements as per their body needs so as to prevent any toxicity or hypervitaminosis.