Sunday, 12 January 2014

The sunshine vitamin

Vitamin D deficiency is fast becoming a global and national health concern. It is estimated that around 75% of the Indian population has Vitamin D levels less than normal. However, the bigger concern is that the population at large is not even aware of Vitamin D deficiency and its consequences.

Vitamin D is a pro-hormone that influences the expression of more than 200 genes in the human body. Nearly every tissue in the human body has receptors of vitamin D, be it the brain, heart, skin, kidney, pancreas etc. Any deficiency of vitamin D in the human body is bound to affect normal functioning of all organs having Vitamin D receptors.

Earlier, vitamin D was thought to be responsible for maintaining calcium homeostasis to prevent osteoporosis and maintain bone health. But, in the past decade, research has established the strong association of vitamin D deficiency in diabetes, immunity, asthma, TB, high blood pressure, neuro-muscular function, etc. Low level of vitamin D is associated with higher incidence of type 2 diabetes and correcting Vitamin D deficiency improves insulin sensitivity and helps in better management of hyperglycemia. Also vitamin D deficiency has been associated with high incidence of type 1 diabetes.

As the mother is the sole source of vitamin D substrate for her developing foetus, vitamin D status is very important during pregnancy. Maternal deficiency of vitamin D is linked with abnormal foetal growth and gestational diabetes. Sunscreen lotions, staying indoors, clothing habits, pollution and minimal exposure to direct sunlight (during the period of 10am to 3pm) are the major reasons of such widespread deficiency in the Indian population.

Given the fact that vitamin D receptors are present in various organs and tissues of the human body, maintaining vitamin D levels in blood above 30 ng/ml may ensure normal functioning of the body organs and protect many from suffering from chronic ailments.

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