Why India is a growing Vitamin D deficient nation?

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Vitamin D deficiency

Summer is just around the corner, waving us with a heap of sunshine and hotness! Folks on the other hand are jam-packed with refreshing mints to loads of sunscreen. But what if we were to tell you, that a nation with such a sun-drenched atmosphere is deficient in vitamin D!?

India is a country with more than 60% of people engaged in agriculture. The food fed is direct and much organic, yet the country has 80% of Vitamin D deficiency. This deficiency is increasing health hazards such as hypertension and diabetes. A recent study suggests that almost 70 to 80% of Indians are deficient in sunshine Vitamins. This deficiency is highly dangerous for not only adults but also accounts for detrimental consequences of skeletal development in babies. It is an open invitation to cardiovascular diseases that links with breast cancer, colon cancer, prostate cancer, and many more.

There are recorded 72.96 million cases of diabetes in the country with an estimation of rising to 134 million in the next 25 years. Whereas, cardiovascular diseases are becoming the leading cause of mortality in India. It is well clear, that an abundant resource cannot justify the genetic failure in an epidemic.

What does the data show us about Vitamin D deficiency?

The local narrative suggests that exposure to direct sunlight can prevent Vitamin D deficiency, but this statement doesn’t seem to rely on today’s statistics. In 1981, a report was published by the National Institute of Nutrition suggesting that just five minutes of exposure to sunlight is enough to produce a sufficient amount of vitamin in the body. But this statement seems much tougher to understand as to why people who stay out in sunlight for so long are this deficient? While if we go by the report published by Goswami in 2008, five hours of sun exposure is the ultimate solution to the problem. However, this report too does not justify the current situation. In fact, it had never been measured correctly as to how much time of sun exposure is sufficient to formulate vitamin D inside the body. 

Researchers could not underscore the optimum level of sunlight enough for Indians. Mainly because this scenario is different for everyone in India. In a country with a wide range of skin tones, diet preferences, and culture, the amount might vary individually. Vitamin D in the body is influenced by our skin tone, where we live, how much time is spent under direct exposure, or even what they eat and in what amount. And the comic of the story among all is that most people don’t even know that they are Vitamin D deficient!  

The only relevant reason as to why India has such deficiency now relies only on common theories. One theory suggests that this epidemic might be the outcome of growing obesity in the country. As Vitamin D is a fat-soluble mineral, it might get stored in the fat cells. Thus, the more fat, the low the required Vitamin D. Another theory relies on harmful beauty products like sunscreens. These skin-lightening products block the UVB radiation on the skin thus causing no absorption.

How can we tackle Vitamin D deficiency in the country?

To ensure this, it is important to understand what Vitamin D does to our health. Vitamin D is one of the most important nutrients needed in Humans for sustaining good health. Our body must have an adequate amount of Vitamin D to ensure bone growth and calcium consumption. It also helps in the regulation of the immune system and neuromuscular system. Vitamin D also maintains the cycle of human blood cells. More than in adults, Vitamin D is extremely important for infants and people with dark skin. People with dark skin tone has more pigments of melanin which absorbs the sunlight, technically a body with high contains melanin receives less sunlight for manufacturing vitamin D. The infants on the other front should be exposed to sunlight every day for almost 10-20 minutes so that they can generate 10 to 20,000 of Vitamin D unit within them.

Vitamin D deficiency

The cure for vitamin D deficiency is simple yet complex- Clean Eating Habits. One can overcome this deficiency by the intake of supplements along with a calcium-rich diet. Mostly, it is preferred to tackle the deficiency by exposing yourself to the natural sunlight for an adequate amount of time while less uncommon methods include animal protein, i.e, a non-vegetarian diet. One can also engage themselves in the consumption of fatty fish and seafood. Tuna, mackerel, oysters, shrimp, sardines, and anchovies are a few of the species known for enriched vitamin D. Additionally, for vegetarians, intake of mushrooms is favored because mushrooms can make their own vitamin D when exposed to UV light. Gym enthusiasts can include egg yolk in their diet as an ultimate source. Cow’s milk, plant-based milk alternatives like soy, almond, and hemp milk, orange juice, cereals, certain types of yogurt, and tofu can also help in overcoming this deficiency.

The bottom line

Vitamin D deficiency is not an incurable dearth but an achievable goal, especially for a country like India. But one can achieve this goal ultimately by the corporation of the people as well as the authorities. Recently, the Food Safety and Security Authority of India launched a program ‘Dhoop’ for school children, requesting the school board to shift the morning assembly from 11 am to 12 pm. The program was initiated so that the students can enjoy maximum absorption of vitamin D through natural sunlight. Similarly, to break this deficiency cycle, people should start working from the upfront and engage themselves in activities that justify their natural genetic needs.

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