JEDDAH – A Saudi doctor has warned that “Vitamin D Deficiency Syndrome” is threatening Saudi women and school girls in particular.
Chairman of the Saudi Association for Endocrinology and Metabolism Dr Ataallah Al-Rehaili said that a study conducted by a team of specialists at King Saud University showed that 80 percent of Saudi female students suffered from vitamin D deficiency.
This causes kidney and liver diseases and loss of hair in women, bone pain and muscle weakness, palpitations, sleeplessness, weak memory and general weakness. Yet even without symptoms, a lack of the vitamin can pose health risks.
In a lecture delivered at the Riyadh Forum, he said that vitamin D deficiency was widespread in the Kingdom and the safest source of 90 percent of the vitamin was sunlight.
Dr. Al-Rehaili said that the most suitable time for exposure to sunlight is between 10 A.M. and 3 P.M. when the rays of the sun are vertical.
He also urged authorities to make dairy companies fortify their milk with Vitamin D. But he insisted that the main cause of the lack of vitamin D is lack of exposure to sunlight.
Dr. Al-Rehaili said that vitamin D could even prevent a number of different diseases including type 1 and type 2 diabetes, hypertension, and multiple sclerosis.
People who have dark skin are more susceptible to the disease as the pigment melanin reduces the skin’s ability to make vitamin D in response to sunlight. Some studies show that older adults with a darker skin are at high risk of vitamin D deficiency.
A report by Mohammed Ardawi from King Abdulaziz University, Jeddah, and colleagues showed that vitamin D deficiency - defined as a serum 25-hydroxyvitamin D (25[OH]D) level below 50 nmol/l - was common in men in Saudi Arabia throughout the year but was more evident in the spring and summer months (when it is too hot to spend prolonged periods outside).
Ardawi and his team measured vitamin D levels in 834 healthy men, who were between 20 and 74 years of age and living in Jeddah, and assessed the relationship between vitamin D, lifestyle factors, bone mineral density (BMD), and markers of bone turnover.
They found that 87.8 percent of the men had vitamin D deficiency and a further 9.7 percent had vitamin D insufficiency (50-75 nmol/l).
The prevalence of vitamin D deficiency increased with increasing age, and men over the age of 50 had significantly lower mean serum 25(OH)D levels than those 20-29 years old, at 25.85 versus 31.87 nmol/l.
In addition, obese men (BMI ?30 kg/m2) had significantly lower 25(OH)D levels than men with normal BMI (<25 kg/m2), at 23.60 versus 37.80 nmol/l, the King Abdulaziz University report said.