Vitamin D, a must for Saudi women
Even though Saudi Arabia is among the top countries in the world that are exposed to sunlight for a good portion of the day, many Saudis suffer from a severe lack of vitamin D, which is provided by the sun naturally.
Nasser bin Mohammed Al-Daggrey, supervisor of Prince Miteb bin Abdullah Center for Research in Biomarkers for Osteoporosis, says the average sunlight in the Kingdom is an estimated 2,200 kWh per square meter, due to its location on the earth’s sunbelt.
“The importance of vitamin D lies in its ability to absorb calcium and phosphorus, which are nutrients that play a prominent role in protecting human bones and the strength of muscles, as well help fight diseases such as colon cancer, breast cancer, heart disease, Type I diabetes, and the common flu,” he said.
“Many Saudis suffer from severe vitamin D deficiency due to lack of exposure to the sun on a daily basis. Prolonged stay indoors or in places away from sunlight, the use of shades on vehicle windshields and consuming junk food low in nutrients all contribute to this deficiency,” he added.
Al-Daggrey says vitamin D deficiency in humans is identified through various symptoms such as pain in the muscles and bones, especially in the lower back, chronic headaches, or neck pain. Other psychological symptoms that signal deficiency include depression, fatigue, increased muscle aches, sleep disorder, poor attention and concentration, memory impairment, a feeling of fear, high irritability and sexual dysfunction.
He pointed out that the best time for sun exposure to maximize vitamin D absorption is between 9 a.m. and 3 p.m. during the winter, and between 8 a.m. and 10 a.m., and 2 p.m. and 4 p.m. during the summer. The recommended period for exposure to the sun is half-an-hour, three to four days a week.
According to physician Dr. Youssef Jaber, more than 90 percent of Saudis suffer from vitamin D deficiency. “The solution is very simple, you need to expose yourself to the sun everyday early morning and late afternoon,” he said. “I suggest that schools should make sure that students get enough sun during the morning by hosting outdoor activities and outdoor lunch breaks,” he added.
Mothers who breastfeed their children should make sure to check their vitamin D status with the doctor. “The amount of vitamin D in your breast milk always depends on the amount of vitamin D in the mother. So if you don’t have enough of this vitamin make sure your baby gets enough exposure to the sunlight to help straighten the bones,” said Jaber.
Vitamin D supplement is always welcome and Dr. Jaber highly recommends people to take a daily does. “Older adults, obese people, people with darker skin and people who have problems absorbing fat should make sure to take supplement pills or drops but first they must speak to their doctors about the dosage,” he said. “This is also great for beauty reasons because as skin ages it is less and less able to make vitamin D from the sun so vitamin D has to be attained from foods or food supplements,” he added.
Food sources of Vitamin D:
1) Fish: Raw fish contains more Vitamin D and cooked fish and fatty cuts contain more than lean cuts. Fish such as tuna that are canned in oil contains more Vitamin D than those canned in water.
2) Oysters: The fancy dish is a great source of Vitamin b12, zinc, manganese, selenium, cropper, iron in addition to vitamin D. People at risk of heart disease or stroke should eat this seafood in moderation.
3) Caviar: This food is the star in sushi dishes and it is surprisingly affordable, especially the black and the red ones.
4) Fortified soy products: Such as tofu and soy milk are often fortified with both vitamin D and calcium.
5) Fortified cereals: This breakfast specialty is supported with essential vitamins and nutrients. Always make sure to read the labels on the back to learn more about the product and choose the ones that have no or little refined sugars and no partially hydrogenated oils.
6) Eggs: Aside from Vitamin D, eggs are a great source for protein and vitamin B12.
7) Fortified dairy products: Those are already high in calcium, so it makes sense to fortify them with vitamin D.
8) Mushrooms: Don’t we all love them in salads, pizza, pasta and quiche? Those small vegetables obtain a high dose of vitamin D and also provide vitamin B5 (Pantothenic Acid) and copper.
9) Cod Liver Oil: Cod liver oil has been a popular supplement for many years and naturally contains very high levels of vitamin A and vitamin D.
10) Salami and sausages: Those are a great source of vitamin b12 and copper. Sadly, they are also high in cholesterol and sodium and so should be limited by people at risk of hypertension, heart attack, and stroke.
“Oysters, whole milk, salami, cheese, caviar and eggs are high cholesterol foods, which should be eaten in moderate amounts and avoided by people at risk of heart disease or stroke,” said Jaber.
To get over this problem Dr. Jaber says the Saudi medical authorities should make a strategic plan to spread awareness and help people get the daily dose they need to provide their bodies with the much needed vitamin.