Vitamin D deficiency – A silent epidemic in UAE

Vitamin D medicine UAE

Vitamin D belongs to the group of fat-soluble vitamins and is known as ‘sun vitamin’ as it is produced in our body when the UV rays fall on our skin. Exposure to sunlight, therefore, plays a major role in maintaining the vitamin D levels in the body. Anyhow, an estimated amount of 1 billion people suffer from vitamin D deficiency worldwide, while among them, there is a significant amount of people from the Middle East. Despite abundant sunlight throughout the year, which allows a healthy vitamin D synthesis, Middle East registers a really low level of vitamin D and a high level of vitamin D deficiency.


This is thought to be due to several reasons which do not allow people to have a good sun exposure. The limited sun exposure is a result of cultural practices in this region, very hot climate, where people try to remain inside buildings where they find an air-conditioner and decreased outdoor activities. Also, it is recorded that the diet people consume in this region have a low level of calcium while the children are breastfed for a longer period, without any vitamin D supplementation of the mother. Furthermore, Dubai, being a state of UAE shows a lack of government regulation of vitamin D fortification of food, which increases the risk of vitamin D deficiency complications of the individuals in this state.

Vitamin D deficiency UAE serum level

Vitamin D deficiency can affect the health of the individuals across all stages of life including pregnancy, infancy to adulthood and elderly age. The consequences of having low levels of vitamin D can disturb the growth of the kids while it can also be a leading cause of the bone fractures of elderly people. Even though rickets is almost eradicated from developed countries, this condition is still recorded in the Middle East.  Moreover, certain studies have indicated that many people in very hot climatic countries of the Middle East such as in the Gulf area have suboptimal levels of vitamin D which put their bone health at risk, regardless of their age. Also, osteoporosis is another complication that might be caused by vitamin D deficiency. Being one of the leading causes of hip fractures and death, osteoporosis is also significant in the gulf region.

Even though the main complications of vitamin D deficiency is related to musculoskeletal disturbances, studies show that a low level of vitamin D can increase the risk of heart diseases, acne, and hormonal disturbances.

When comparing previous studies, it was shown that a majority of individuals from UAE had a serum 25(OH)D level (a test used to determine vitamin D levels in serum) of less than 10ng/mL while the optimum level of an individual should be more than 30ng/mL.

This data shows the importance of vitamin D supplementation of the individuals in Dubai. Special consideration should be given to those who are at a higher risk (pregnancy, female, older age, multi-party and conservative clothing).

A recommended daily dietary supplementation of vitamin D of at least 1000 IU for healthy adults in the form of D2 or D3 can help in elevating the serum 25(OH)D levels, which will reduce the risk of complications while strengthening the health of the individuals of this region.


References:

  1. El-Rassi, R., Baliki, G. and Fulheihan, G. (n.d.). Vitamin D status in Middle East and Africa. 1st ed. [ebook] Beirut, Lebanon, pp.1-8. Available at: https://www.iofbonehealth.org/sites/default/files/PDFs/Vitamin_D_MEast_Africa.pdf  [Accessed 10 Apr. 2017].
  2. Bassil, D., Rahme, M., Hoteit, M. and Fuleihan, G. (2013). Hypovitaminosis D in the Middle East and North Africa. Dermato-Endocrinology, 5(2), pp.274-298.
  3. El-Hajj Fuleihan, G. (2009). Vitamin D Deficiency in the Middle East and its Health Consequences for Children and Adults. Clinical Reviews in Bone and Mineral Metabolism, 7(1), pp.77-93.
  4. Wang, T., Pencina, M., Booth, S., Jacques, P., Ingelsson, E., Lanier, K., Benjamin, E., D’Agostino, R., Wolf, M. and Vasan, R. (2008). Vitamin D Deficiency and Risk of Cardiovascular Disease.
  5. Tangpricha, V. and Khardori, R. (2016). Vitamin D Deficiency and Related Disorders: Practice Essentials, Background, Pathophysiology. [online] Emedicine.medscape.com. Available at: http://emedicine.medscape.com/article/128762-overview  [Accessed 10 Apr. 2017]

 

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