It’s estimated that over 80% of UAE residents suffer vitamin D deficiency. Vitamin D is needed for bone health and to prevent cancer, asthma, cognitive impairment and death from cardiovascular disease.
It’s hard to imagine that people in the UAE suffer a vitamin D deficiency, as it’s one of the sunniest places in the world and vitamin D is formed when the skin is exposed to the sun. However, a lot of people spend most of their time indoors in the UAE due to the heat and when outdoors wear long robes and head coverings. Dark skin also contains a lot of melanin, probably as prevention against the sun, but it means that if you have dark skin it doesn’t form as much vitamin D.
So how many people in the UAE are affected?
“Speaking at the VPS-Penn Medicine Internal Diagnostic Radiology and Medical Lab Conference which kicked off on Thursday, principal scientist at VPS Healthcare Dr Afrozul Haq said the UAE has one of the world’s highest amounts of Vitamin D deficiency, one of the most common preventable disorders. According to his research, only 17 per cent of the UAE’s residents were found to have sufficient levels of the vitamin.” (Source: Gulf News)
While spending time in the sun is the easiest way of getting your daily dose of vitamin D, you also find vitamin D in egg yolks, fish and fish liver oil, beef liver and fortified dairy and grain products (which means if you eat all natural products that haven’t been fortified, you won’t get much vitamin D through dairy and grains).
If you eat large amounts of junk/fast food, you’re much more likely to suffer a vitamin D deficiency. What’s more, people who are obese have a harder time extracting vitamin D from the blood stream. Some people, often the elderly, also have trouble converting vitamin D to its active form in the kidneys. People with certain medical conditions can have problems absorbing vitamin D from the digestive tract as well.
So why do we need vitamin D? Well, for one thing, it makes us happy. It helps control our mood and alertness. That’s not the only thing though, vitamin D is also needed for overall bone health and to help prevent osteoporosis, rickets, cancer, childhood asthma, cognitive impairment in the elderly and death from cardiovascular disease. In short, you want to get enough vitamin D.
If you avoid spending time in the sun, or are fully covered when in the sun, then you need to find a sun bed with UVB light (not UVA). Be sure to spend very short amounts of time in the sun bed though – 10 minutes in a regular sun bed is the equivalent of ten minutes in the harsh rays of the Mediterranean. Keep sessions much shorter than that. You should also consider supplements, including fish liver oil, and ensure you eat a healthy and varied diet that includes fish, egg yolks and beef liver. If you’re a vegetarian be sure to get some vitamin supplements. The best way to ensure you get enough vitamin D is to get tested by your doctor. As so many people in UAE suffer from vitamin D deficiency it’s well worth it to ensure you don’t!
This article does not aim to give medical advice and should not be considered as such. Please see a doctor to get advice regarding your vitamin D intake.