Wake Up to the Sunshine Vitamin

Vitamin D is essential for the growth, development and maintenance of healthy bones and teeth, but deficiency of this vital vitamin is on the rise in the Arab Gulf, particularly among growing children.

Vitamin D is often called the sunshine vitamin, as the skin requires sunlight in order to make vitamin D. The main role of vitamin D is to help us to absorb dietary calcium, and then to use this calcium, along with other minerals, to build strong bones and teeth. Too little vitamin D for too long could result in a child potentially developing rickets.

Despite the abundance of sunshine in the Arab Gulf, the region has a high prevalence of vitamin D deficiency - studies show that 78% of the UAE population suffers from vitamin D deficiency1. Vitamin D deficiency and insufficiency have also been found to be highly prevalent in otherwise healthy adolescents living in the UAE2 and KSA3 (especially in girls2) despite adequate exposure to sunlight.

In response to this nutritional shortfall, Kellogg’s adds vitamin D to all family and children’s ranges so that every bowl now provides one quarter of daily vitamin D requirements. In addition, most breakfast cereals are consumed with milk4, providing the ideal partnership of vitamin D and calcium.

The Food Dome: Dietary Guidelines for Arab Countries5 highlights the need for adequate consumption of foods fortified with vitamin D for vulnerable groups including pregnant women, infants, and pre-school children. School-aged children are advised to consume sufficient quantities of cereals fortified with micronutrients.

Recommended sources of vitamin D include1:

Exposure to direct sunlight of the face, arms, hands, or back for 15 minutes daily (or at least 3 days a week) without applying sunscreen

Fortified foods and beverages such as milk, soy milk and orange juice (check the labels of the product). Kellogg’s breakfast cereals for kids are now also fortified with vitamin D and can help cover the needs

Fish (such as tuna, salmon and sardines), liver, and egg yolk

 

Click here to download a factsheet on Vitamin D

 

References

  1. Dubai Health Authority. Vitamin D Accessed on line August 2014 at: https://www.dha.gov.ae/En/healtheducation/articles/pages/vitamind.aspx
  2. Muhairi SJ et al (2013) Vitamin D deficiency among healthy adolescents in Al Ain, United Arab Emirates BMC Public Health 2013, 13:33
  3. Elsammak MY (2011) High prevalence of vitamin D deficiency in the sunny Eastern region of Saudi Arabia: a hospital-based study. East Mediterranean Health Journal 17: 317-22
  4. Albertson AM et al (2008) Consumption of breakfast cereal is associated with positive health outcomes: evidence from the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute Growth and Health Study. Nutrition Research 28: 744-52.
  5. Musaiger AO (2012) The Food Dome; dietary guidelines for Arab countries. Nutr Hosp. 2012; 27: 109-115