Global Vitamin D Deficiency Rates Rise Highest in South Asia

by VR Sreeraman on Jul 2 2009 5:04 PM

Vitamin D deficiency is on the rise across the globe, with the highest rates recorded in South Asia, say experts.

A study involving six regions Asia, Europe, Latin America, Middle East and Africa, North America, and Oceania showed that the highest rates of Vitamin D deficiency occur in South Asia and the Middle East and the problem is widespread and on the increase.

It can have potentially severe repercussions for overall health and fracture rates.

Vitamin D is mainly produced in the skin upon exposure to sunlight, and, to a lesser extent, is derived from nutritional sources.

It plays an important role, through its influence on calcium levels, in the maintenance of organ systems, and is needed for normal bone mineralization and growth.

The researchers say that suboptimal levels of vitamin D may lead to increased risk of osteoporosis and hip fracture and, in severe cases, to the development of rickets, a softening of bones in children that can lead to skeletal fractures and deformity.

They suggest that an increase in urbanization, where people tend to live and work indoors, as well as cultural practices that tend towards sun avoidance and the wearing of traditional clothing that covers the skin might be behind the increasing rates of Vitamin D deficient people.

Moreover, aging, female sex, less time spent in the sun, and lack of vitamin D fortified foods in the diet can also contribute to lack of what is known as sunshine vitamin.

A research article on these findings has been published in the scientific journal Osteoporosis International1.