By Dr Farzana Khan
Are you dark skinned, don’t get out much and feel tired all the time with muscle fatigue and bony pains? Then you may be suffering from a lack in Vitamin D.
Studies from the UK suggest that around 50 % of the adult population may be lacking Vitamin D in winter and spring. It’s estimated that 9 out of 10 South Asians are lacking in Vitamin D.
A lack of exposure to sunshine, genetic traits and dietary habits are all factors which influence vitamin D levels and may also be attributed to skin pigmentation and traditional clothing.
In my daily GP life working in inner city Leeds, I am astonished at the amount of people that I encounter with severe lack of Vitamin D.
“Vitamin D deficiency is common in people with darker skin, and women who wear hijab/niqab/veils, or wear attire that fully covers the body.”
This is more noticeable in the winter month where there is hardly any sun, which is essential to produce Vitamin D in the body.
I recently encountered a six-month pregnant Asian woman who was complaining of pain in her left foot, which had been going on for a few weeks.
She was initially diagnosed as an ankle sprain however, an x-ray of her foot showed evidence of a stress fracture. She also had vitamin D levels checked and it appeared that she was severely deficient and immediately required a Vitamin D injection.
Vitamin D is essential for good bone health as it helps the absorption of calcium in our diet. More than 90% of humans Vitamin D is from sun exposure – hence commonly known as “the sunshine vitamin”. The most significant dietary source is oily fish including trout, salmon, tuna, mackerel, anchovies and cod liver oil.
The Department of Health recommend Vitamin D supplement to those groups in the population at risk of Vitamin D deficiency.
This include all pregnant and breastfeeding women, all children under the age of five (unless 500 ml of infant formula daily as this contain fortified vitamin D), people over 65 year of age, people in nursing homes/institutions, people with darker skin, and women who wear hijab/niqab/veils, or wear attire that fully covers the body.
If you fall into any of these groups it’s recommended that you take daily supplement in winter months to ensure good bone health.
The government has set up a “Healthy Start” programme which support eligible children and women with free Vitamin D supplements. Further info can be found on www.healthystart.nhs.uk or ask your health visitor or GP for further info.