DSM's new publication shows that nearly three quarters of Indians are vitamin D deficient

The poor vitamin D status in India can be explained by high pollution levels, which prevents ultraviolet radiation from reaching the Earth’s surface

DSM Nutritional Products, has co-authored a new publication summarising the vitamin D status of healthy Indian individuals across all age groups.

The objective of this study was to understand the extent of vitamin D deficiency status in India through a meta-analysis. Results concluded that although India benefits from a sunny climate, 75% of the adult population has a deficient (<50nm/L) vitamin D status, which is significantly above the global average of 38%.

Vitamin D is composed of a group of fat-soluble compounds that play an essential role in the growth and maintenance of the skeletal system through the regulation of calcium. Vitamin D deficiency is traditionally associated with inappropriate bone mineralisation, leading to rickets in children and osteoporosis and osteomalacia in adults.

Osteoporosis is often referred to as a 'silent disease,' owing to the inability to diagnose until the first fracture. Moreover, vitamin D contributes to the improvement of muscular strength. The European Commission has authorised an Article 14 health claim, submitted by DSM, stating that ‘vitamin D helps to lower the risk of falling associated with postural instability and muscle weakness.’

Unlike other vitamins, of which sufficient levels can be consumed via the diet, sun exposure is the main source of vitamin D. However, some factors might interfere with the body’s ability to produce vitamin D from sunlight. The new paper suggests that poor vitamin D status in India can be explained by high pollution levels, which prevent ultraviolet radiation from reaching the Earth’s surface.

Additionally, urbanisation has changed the housing landscape resulting in over-crowded houses with limited daylight. The typical middle class lifestyle now favours staying inside air-conditioned homes, rather than sitting outside in the sun. The use of clothing to cover the face or body parts owing to cultural or religious beliefs or for sun protection, also limits sun exposure.

Dr Manfred Eggersdorfer, Senior Vice President, Nutrition Science and Advocacy at DSM and Professor for Healthy Ageing at Groningen University, comments: 'Low vitamin D status remains a major public health concern in India as well as other parts of the world, and can have a significant impact on healthcare costs. To better reflect the gained understanding of vitamin D, guidance on optimal vitamin D status and intake and ways to fill the nutritional gap are required. Dietary supplements are an effective, low cost and safe source of vitamin D, but consumption in India is not common.

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