Vitamin D has been in the news lately and it looks like it’s there to stay.
A recent study conducted by a diagnostic centre on 37,010 people across five zones in the country (including Tamil Nadu) revealed that 69 per cent of those tested were vitamin D deficient, and a further 15 per cent had insufficient levels of the important vitamin.
Created by the body with exposure to direct sunlight and also absorbed through some foods – such as certain kinds of fish, meat and eggs — vitamin D is needed to keep the bones healthy, say doctors.
The study, conducted by SRL Diagnostics on 13,308 men and 23,702 women earlier this year, also revealed that men in the age group 31-60 and women in the age group 16-30 were at a higher risk of vitamin D deficiency, said Premila Samuel, chief pathologist, SRL Ltd, Chennai.
“Between 30 and 100 nanograms per millilitre of vitamin D is considered sufficient. Below 30 ng/ml indicates insufficient levels of vitamin D, and below 20 is considered deficiency,” explained Dr. Samuel. She added that the test used for the survey was the 25 hydroxy Vitamin D test.
Rajan Ravichandran, Director, MIOT Institute of Nephrology, however questions whether this test can reflect a true deficiency of vitamin D3. “We have plenty of sunshine in our country and it seems paradoxical that we are deficient in vitamin D,” he wrote to The Hindu . “What is important for bone health and vitamin D action is the free form. However, the free forms are quite normal. Hence, even though the total vitamin D3 level is low in blood, they are not deficient for vitamin D since the free levels are normal,” he posited.
A.B. Govindaraj, chief consultant orthopaedic surgeon at Fortis Malar Hospital, said vitamin D leads to better bone strength, muscle strength and improved immunity.
“Most of my patients have low levels of vitamin D. Once patients who have the deficiency start taking vitamin D supplements, there is a dramatic improvement. Their bone pain and general tiredness goes away and they feel much better overall,” said Vijay C. Bose, consultant orthopaedic surgeon, SRM Institute of Medical Sciences.
However, patients must not take too much of the supplement, or it could lead to toxicity,” said Dr. Govindaraj.