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In scientific terms, Vitamin-D is a hormone and not a nutrient.
While our body cannot generate Vitamin D on its own, it can derive the fat-soluble vitamin from the action of UVB rays in sunlight. It then reacts with other compounds in our skin and converts them to their biologically active form.
Research has shown that low levels of Vitamin D may lead to health conditions such as osteoporosis, fatigue, cancer, depression, anxiety, diabetes, psoriasis, Alzheimer’s, and Covid-19. Vitamin D is essential for overall immune function. It acts as an immunomodulator while regulating the body’s response against bacterial infection. Getting enough Vitamin D may play a role in protecting against these health conditions and possibly helping to treat them.
Our body cannot create Vitamin D on its own. However, making small changes to one’s lifestyle can help one replenish Vitamin D. Sunlight and a wholesome diet are natural sources of deriving the nutrient.
Natural sunlight is a good option for replenishing the body with Vitamin D. When your skin is exposed to sunlight, it makes vitamin D from cholesterol. The sun’s ultraviolet B (UVB) rays hit cholesterol in the skin cells, providing the energy for vitamin D synthesis to occur. “
While getting more sunlight at a specific time is ideal, getting Vitamin D from dietary sources is just as important. Some of the best nutritional sources are mushrooms, oily fish, eggs, red meat, oatmeal, cereals, liver, fortified foods such as oranges, cow milk, and soy milk.
Despite the abundant sunshine in the GCC countries, the Vitamin-D deficiency of various age groups is relatively high. Research shows that the United Arab Emirates (UAE) has become the highest Vitamin D deficient country globally. It can be attributed to social, cultural, environmental, and behavioural factors. [Ramdan, Salam, (2016), Vitamin D Deficiency in the United Arab Emirates, Walden University].
Vitamin-D deficiency is high in all GCC countries. The percentages are as high as 86% in Qatar, 81% in KSA, 82.5 % in UAE, 87.5% in Oman, and 83% in Kuwait. [NCBI, (2019) Vitamin D Deficiency in the Gulf Cooperation Council].
A study in a Dubai Government Hospital, showed the prevalence of vitamin D levels < 30ng/ ml (deficiency and insufficiency) of 81% out of 2836 individuals.
Over 80-90% of the UAE population is Vitamin-D deficient. As a result, people are not getting enough sun. The extreme heat often forces people to stay indoors, making little or no time to spend under the sun.