India, our county as we all know is located between 8.4 and 37.6 degrees N latitude with majority of us living in regions experiencing ample sunlight throughout the year.
Historically, we have obtained most of our vitamin D through adequate sun exposure. However the modern Indian spends a considerable amount of time indoors. Many of us continue our current preference for traditional clothing covering a major portion of our body.
This is further augmented with the rising pollution and predominant darker skin pigmentation. All these reasons bring us to an important point that we Indians would face a growing trend for reduced sun exposure. As we are all aware that inadequate sun exposure results in reduced vitamin D synthesis and ultimately poor vitamin D status if not compensated by dietary intake.
To our surprise, dietary vitamin D intake is significantly low in India, mainly due to low consumption of vitamin D rich foods coupled with absence of fortification and low use of food supplements. All these facts add up and lead us to a nation having an overall poor vitamin D status.
Experts say that vitamin D deficiency is pandemic, yet it is the most under-diagnosed and under-treated nutritional deficiency in the world and India is no different with a prevalence of 70% to 100%. Recent searches of published literature specific to India confirm the need to fortify food staples with vitamin D or stimulate public health policies for vitamin D supplementation and dietary guidelines tailored to the Indian diet.
It is evident that poor vitamin D status is accompanied by increased bone disorders including osteoporosis, osteomalacia in adults and rickets and other bone deformities in children. Without joint efforts there may be a dramatic increase in number of bone disorders and other serious diseases may lie ahead.
One need not be surprised that the world’s second most populous country, with a population of over 1.2 billion has around 500 million vegetarians. Vegetarianism is very much a mainstream way of life with 42 percent of Indian households eschewing meat, fish and eggs.
Vegetarianism in India is a popular belief and practice originates from ethical reason; this practice of abstaining from the use of animals also often shows support for animal rights. It is partially developed for the economic reasons too, since animal foods are comparatively expensive, people had started opting for vegetarianism. As per reliable sources, foods that provide vitamin D include, fatty fish, like tuna, mackerel, and salmon, cod liver oil and percomorph liver oil, beef liver, cheese and egg yolks. It is more than evident that majority of the above mentioned food is not even a part of the regular diet of many non-vegetarians in India.
It is now proven that without a highly determined national effort to screen for vitamin D status, to implement policies or guidelines for vitamin D fortification and supplementation, to re-assess recommended dietary intake guidelines there can be a dramatic increase in the number of bone disorders and other diseases across the nation.
Written By : Prashant Nagre
Image Source : Getty
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