Historically, humans were designed to synthesize vitamin D naturally obtained through the action of the sun. However, modern lifestyles, cultural habits and large numbers of populations living in the Northern Hemisphere, has proven inadequate. Although vitamin D is present to various amounts in food products (oily fish, egg yolk, fortified cereals and spreads, Shitake mushrooms, etc.), these food products are not usually preferred by children making it difficult to rely on sun and nutrition alone in order to obtain the recommended daily amounts.
Furthermore, the natural vitamin D production through exposure of the skin to sunlight is prevented in several high risk populations. People with darker pigmented skin need considerably more exposure to the sun to generate the same vitamin D amounts due to the presence of melanin, which acts as a natural sunscreen and deficiency/insufficiency was identified in populations who cover discretely for religious or cultural reasons.
Vitamin D is known to play a significant role in bone metabolism, muscle strength, musculoskeletal health, and is also related to a number of non-skeletal diseases. Its deficiency has been related to many health conditions including respiratory and other infections, asthma, atopic dermatitis and allergic disease, type 1 diabetes, inflammatory bowel, obesity and metabolic syndrome, autism and depression, and celiac disease, all having strong links with vitamin D insufficiency early in life.
The prevalence of vitamin D deficiency in adolescents in the UAE is very high, particularly in females, compared to their counterparts in other developed countries where vitamin D fortified foods are available, and people use vitamin D supplements. Although the UAE and other Gulf countries have a sunny environment, skin sun exposure is low, and therefore vitamin D deficiency remains one of the major public health problems.
We strongly support the recommendations published recently that encourage supplementation of vitamin D to special populations (pregnant and lactating women, infants, and high risk groups). We acknowledge the importance of international food fortification programs implemented to ensure nutritional sufficiency of vitamin D and calcium for the entire population.
Recommendations for boosting vitamin D levels:
Aim for fifteen minutes per day of midday sun
Try to take oily fish, egg yolks, fortified cereals, food products with Shiitake mushrooms and dairy products everyday
Supplement regularly with at least 400IU vitamin D3 for children and 1000IU – 2000IU for adults