Vitamin D is the sunshine vitamin. It is produced in our skin when we are in sunlight and, in fact, we actually get very little of this vitamin from the food we eat. As a result, you might think that it is one of the last vitamins we should be worrying about when it comes to deficiencies of nutritional substances; however, a recent report shows that worldwide more and more people are suffering from low levels of this vitamin.
The consequences of deficiencies are significant. This particular vitamin works together with calcium and is important, not only for keeping our organs in peak condition, but also for the normal development and strength of bones. Low levels of the vitamin in adults can increase the risk of osteoporosis and hip fractures. In children, it can lead to rickets which is where the bones become soft and can fracture or even become deformed.
Deficiencies On The Increase Around The Globe
This recent research was undertaken by the expert working group of the International Osteoporosis Foundation (IOF) and was published in Osteoporosis International. In the study, the group researched the incidence of deficiencies of the vitamin and the reasons for this problem in six regions; namely, North America, Latin America, Europe, Middle East and Africa, Asia and Oceania. The regional reports can be found on the website of the IOF.
The researchers found numerous reasons for deficiencies of the vitamin:
- Low levels are more commonplace in females, the elderly and those with dark-coloured skins.
- People living at lower latitudes and those experiencing the winter season are also more susceptible to deficiencies.
- Then there are the cultures where it is tradition to cover one’s skin for religious reasons or for protection against the sun’s rays.
- Our diets these days and the lack of added vitamins to our foods also cause problems.
- Furthermore, there is the change in lifestyle where people are moving from an outside way of life to cities where most activities and jobs are indoors.
Middle East and South Asia are the regions where the problem is greatest. In this instance a number of these factors are at play.
There are still no conclusions as to the exact amount of the vitamin that we require on a daily basis. Suggestions for the recommended blood level of the vitamin can be as little as 50nmol/L or as much as 150nmol/L. Whatever the optimal level, there are significant numbers of people worldwide who are not getting enough of this vital substance.
Given the importance of these findings, it is essential for this problem to be addressed. Programs need to include both safe exposure to sunlight, as well as dietary sources of the vitamin. This intervention needs to happen across the world and programs need to be implemented on a national scale for ultimate success.