Clinical dieticians, general physicians, neonatologists and orthopaedicians are alarmed over the rising cases of vitamin D deficiency in the country as they inform that they are diagnosing an estimated 80 per cent of patients pan-India with vitamin D deficiency every day.
These experts have recommended preventing risk of vitamin D deficiency and infections during winters through lifestyle and dietary interventions.
Without sufficient vitamin D, bones can become thin, brittle, or misshapen. Vitamin D sufficiency prevents rickets in children and osteomalacia in adults. Together with calcium, vitamin D also helps protect older adults from osteoporosis. By consuming more vitamin D during the winter, gut microbes will be healthier and one will be more resistant to infection and inflammation.
Regular intake of 600 IU per day of vitamin D to prevent risk of vitamin D deficiency and infections especially during winters has also been recommended. Humans need extra vitamin D to keep healthy and to fight infections. In winter, when people need vitamin D the most, most of us are not getting enough.
“In addition to this, they are exposed to more infections and spend less time outside so it is important to know about how much vitamin D one should one take and how do we get it,” informs clinical dietician Payal.
Researches have also substantiated that the benefits of vitamin D go beyond bone support. Vitamin D, also known as the “sunshine” vitamin is also important because almost every cell and tissue in your body includes receptors for vitamin D. That’s why it is important, especially for bone health because it helps your body absorb and efficiently use calcium.
Sharing his perspective, Dr. Atul Arora from RG Stone Hospital, New Delhi, said, “Vitamin D promotes calcium absorption in the gut and maintains adequate serum calcium and phosphate concentrations. It also enables normal bone mineralization and prevents hypocalcemic tetany (involuntary contraction of muscles, leading to cramps and spasms). It is also needed for bone growth and bone remodeling by osteoblasts and osteoclasts.”
Known as the sunshine vitamin, vitamin D is produced by the body in response to skin being exposed to sunlight. It also occurs naturally in a few foods — including some fish (mackerel, sardine and tuna), fish liver oils, and egg yolks – oranges, mushrooms, margarine and in fortified dairy and grain products.
“The main consequence of vitamin D toxicity is a build- up of calcium in your blood (hypercalcemia), which can cause nausea and vomiting, weakness, and frequent urination. Vitamin D toxicity might progress to bone pain and kidney problems, such as the formation of calcium stones,” Payal informs.
According to a research finding done in India, only 17.8% of participants correctly identified that vitamin D deficiency has achieved epidemic proportions, while less than half of the participants believed that it is prevalent only in urban populations (47.2%) or limited to high-risk groups (23.8%). Majority of the participants (76.1%) correctly identified infants, pregnant and lactating women as high-risk groups.
However, elderly and diabetics were also at a greater risk to develop vitamin D deficiency than the general population. Though bone and skeletal disorders as a complication of deficiency were known (94.4%) but other factors include systemic consequences like diabetes mellitus, cardiovascular diseases, and cancers.
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