Wednesday, 1 September 2010

Sunshine, you are my Sunshine

flickr pills - you should check how many you n...Image by higlu via Flickr
Went for a routine checkup recently as I mentioned the other day. One interesting result from this (apart from the news that I am going to live, apparently) was that I have vitamin D deficiency. It's not quite rickets, but the Doktor has given me some vitamin D bombs to bring me levels back up.
Why should I even bother sharing this mundane detail? Because it is apparently widespread here, so much so that health check-ups didn't used to include it as a routine test and now do. I watched others being prescribed the same supplement down at the pharmacy, so that gives us anecdotal evidence that a) there is a genuinely widespread incidence of vitamin D deficiency or, possibly b) there's a company making vitamin D supplements that pays whopping backhanders to doctors that prescribe them. Given the pills weren't hugely expensive, I'm going with a). And yes, I know I'm cynical.
Vitamin D is not, apparently, really a dietary thing. Your main source of the stuff is sunlight - it's synthesised by the skin in unfiltered sunlight and doctors recommend that you be exposed to something like 15 minutes' sunshine a day. Allowing that two minutes in the current heat and humidity would render you a gasping, sweaty heap, it's no surprise to find that we're none of us* getting enough sunlight and so many of us in the UAE and, presumably elsewhere in the GCC, have low vitamin D levels..
Low vitamin D levels won't cause you to break out in blotches or grow extra fingers, but it will over time affect the health of your bones and can lead to osteoporisis and other brittle/weak bone conditions later in life.
When was the last time you had yours checked?

* Apart from the labourers, of course, who are likely getting plenty of the stuff, although precious little else...
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Luke said...

It is incredibly ironic that in one of the sunniest places on the planet, vitamin D deficiency is a problem. I would imagine that the traditional wardrobe exacerbates the problem amongst locals - particularly the ladies. As such, isn't there an argument that enforced covering up is physical abuse, albeit that the effects are not apparent until much later.

Vitamin D deficiency is also a problem for kids who are covered in SPF 50.

Getting naked outside is very much underrated (and unnecessarily illegal where you are). Take a walk through the English Garden in Munich on a summer day. It's all rather harmless.

alexander... said...

I'm not actually sure what effect slopping on the slap has on vitamin D levels!

I'll just carry on taking the pills, I guess!


Luke said...

"The application of sunscreen with an SPF factor of 8 reduces production of vitamin D by 95% creating a similar problem to covered skin."

As with everything it is a balancing act between not burning and not covering up, be it sunscreen or clothing.

Terry said...

If God had meant us to be covered up, he wouldn't have made us so reliant on sunshine for our vitamin D.

Phillipa said...

Most adults I know have a vitamin D deficiency. As I'm in sunny Australia it has been put down to our uses of sunscreens hats and direct sun avoidence. I'm not so sure and my theory is that there may be something lacking in the western diet that interferes with the absobtion of Vitamin D. I could be completely wrong though. My partner has olive skin and never wears sunscreen (although he should) and wanders about shirtless in the garden or by the pool all summer and he's still Vitamin D deficient. Curious.

KJ said...

Mom got it too... I believe it is a GCC thing as we go from air conditioner to air conditioner... but I do try to go out into the sun on a daily basis... to defrost!

EyeOnDubai said...

I don't have a vitamin D deficiency. I DO have a dog.

Christopher Saul said...

My brother-in-law is a Vitamin D fanatic, with good reason.

Check out his posts -

Anonymous said...

I've just been diagnosed with low Vit D also! I think it is an epidemic because we all took heed when 'they' told us to stay out of the sun and now they have to backtrack--like so many medical truism of late. But, unlike you, I think I'd vote for (b) because why are regular vitamins not sufficient? I'm not sure I'm going to buy the expensive stuff, just start taking the over-the-counter for awhile. One good least I've staved off the wrinkles and need for botox with my anti-sun regimen... for a while anyway. ;) ...Glad to hear you are going to live, btw! ;)

Susan said...

actually vitamin d deficiency is pretty serious - D is a powerful cancer preventer.

Its not sunlight that causes skin cancer - its sunburn. A fact that purveyors of expensive chemical sunscreens have conveniently forgotten to mention

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