By Dr Jyoti Goyal
Kids who are deficient in vitamin D are known to accumulate fat around the waist and gain weight more rapidly than those who get enough of the sunshine vitamin, which is essential for bone health. Bone growth is high during childhood and adolescence, which is the right time to identify and treat vitamin D deficiency. Obesity, too, may put one at risk of vitamin D deficiency.
Vitamin D is a fat-soluble vitamin and very essential not only for oral skeletal health but has many important actions on the extra skeleton system. It is essential to maintain strong bones and teeth as that helps in absorption of calcium phosphorus. It’s a hormone that interacts with every cell in the body and important for several other functions, like for building immunity and even cancer resistance.
It is not only a vitamin but works as a hormone in our body and regulates many cellular functions. Studies have proven its role in prevention of various cancers infections, cardiovascular diseases, metabolic diseases and autoimmune diseases. However, Trial data that proves that vitamin D supplements can decrease cancer, cardiovascular and metabolic disease risk. In various studies its role has been found is helping in weight loss and people who have adequate vitamin D levels in their blood loose more weight and have low tendency to gain it further after losing it.
Various theories have been proposed for explaining its action on weight loss. It is a fat-soluble vitamin and it also affects the storage and production of fat cells. By affecting levels of testosterone hormone, it helps in weight loss. Therefore, increase in vitamin D levels not only helps in weight loss but also in overcoming depression as children may face depression because of their appearance and peer pressure.
Numerous studies show that over 80 per cent of Indians suffer from deficiency of vitamin D, which is vital for the absorption of calcium in the body. Deficiency of this crucial vitamin among children is pushing doctors to prescribe for them compulsory playtime in the sun to kids.
The Indian Council of Medical Research says diet provides less than 10 per cent of vitamin D; close to 90 per cent is synthesised in the skin with sunlight exposure.
In modern times, because of change in lifestyles, our outdoor activities are remarkably restricted and so is our sun exposure. Sunlight is a rich source of vitamin D and lack of sun exposure has the potential to cause vitamin D deficiency.
Vitamin D deficiency and childhood obesity have been classified as epidemics throughout the world, and both share some common risk factors including poor diet and inactivity. According to a survey, approximately 70-100 per cent of Indians are vitamin D deficient. In school children aged 6-12 years, only 5 per cent had sufficient levels of 25-hydroxy vitamin D and the rest had either vitamin D deficiency (24 per cent) or insufficiency (71 per cent), despite majority of children (80 per cent) reporting sunlight exposure of under two hours.
Apart from sunlight, the other sources of vitamin D are fish and fish oil, mushrooms, yeast and egg yolk, but they need to be eaten in very high quantities to maintain an optimum level of the vitamin. No wonder, almost every Indian is deficient in this essential vitamin!
One almost always has to take a supplement or buy foods especially fortified in it. Milks, in particular, can be fortified with Vitamin D. Fish oil, such as cod liver fish oil, is a great supplement to the diet not only for vitamin D but also for many other nutritional benefits that it provides besides Vitamin D.
But this doesn’t mean that vegetarians and vegans do not have enough sources for this vitamin. There are many sources besides those mentioned above that are made from sheep wool, yeast or mushrooms that can help them fulfill their vitamin D requirement.
Unfortunately, very few foods are good sources of Vitamin D and therefore, its deficiency is quite prevalent. It is almost always very difficult to cover the vitamin D deficiency with our diet and many of us require supplements. However, before starting, it is important to consult a doctor and get the vitamin D levels checked.
It is important to remember not to consume the supplements excessively because vitamin D toxicity can lead to hypercalcemia. They should be used as dosage for preventing a treatment of osteoporosis and maintenance of bone health. Always take supplements from prescription of a doctor for children as well as adults.
(The writer is HOD-Internal Medicine at Nayati Medicity.)