Vitamin D Deficiency: A Serious Concern

Dr.Gautam Sharma, Dr. Bodh Raj Sharma
The Covid-19 pandemic has once again made the researchers throughout the world to investigate the role of Vitamin D in increased immunity against Corona Virus. The finding that deficiency of Vit-D is linked to increased susceptibility of an individual to corona virus infection had made doctors to hypothesise that vitamin D supplementation could be a promising therapeutic agent for the prevention of COVID-19.
General public is generally unaware of their Vit-D status. Many a time people come to know that they are deficient in Vit-D only when they visit a doctor or an orthopedician with a complaint of pain in bones especially of legs and arms or backache. In Vit-D deficiency, the calcium concentration in the serum decreases and it may leach out from the bones into the blood to maintain the calcium balance as it is required for the vital functions of the human body. The balance of serum ionized calcium blood concentrations results from a complex interaction between parathyroid hormone, vitamin D, and calcitonin. Vitamin D is vital for our body as it regulates calcium homeostasis and maintains bone integrity. It not only plays a vital role in skeletal growth but also has other critical biological actions in neurodevelopment and function.
It is unfortunate that Vitamin D deficiency affect millions around the world and can come with serious consequences which may be due to the less exposure to sunlight and vegetarian diet containing less Vitamin D as compared to the the non-vegetarian diet. Lack of awareness regarding this deficiency enhances physical and mental disorders. However, a proper Vitamin D rich diet and supplements alongwith the 5 to 15 minutes sunshine thrice a week may resolve the defficiency. The Vitamin D is also known as the sunshine vitamin and being produced by the body in response to skin exposure to the sunlight.
Symptoms Of Vitamin D Deficiency
Low vitamin D levels may have various side effects and some of the most common symptoms of a deficiency include weakness in the legs, arms and hands, chronic fatigue, back pain, neck pain, depression, disturb sleep, anxiety, weak or broken bones, numbness in legs and arms, weakened immune system, inflammation and swelling
Causes Of Vitamin D Deficiency
Vitamin D deficiency can occur for a number of reasons which includes low consumption of the recommended levels of the vitamin over time, limited exposure to sunlight, dark skin individuals, kidney diseases, inability of the digestive tract to absorb vitamin D, obesity, diet without or less amount of Vitamin D.
Tests For Vitamin D Deficiency
The most accurate way to measure how much vitamin D is through a blood test. A level of 20 nanograms/milliliter to 50 ng/ml is considered adequate for healthy people. A level less than 12 ng/ml indicates vitamin D deficiency. Although, there is no consensus on vitamin D levels required for optimal health and differs depending on the age and health conditions. However, a concentration less than 20 nanograms per milliliter is generally considered inadequate and requires immediate treatment.
Treatment For Vitamin D Deficiency
If one is diagnosed with a vitamin D deficiency, the doctor will likely prescribe vitamin D supplements. Tablets/ sachets/ liquids of 60000 IU of Vit-D once weekly for 4-8 weeks is prescribed by the medical practitioner depending on the Vit-D serum levels. If one has a severe deficiency, then high-dose vitamin D tablets or liquids may be prescribed by the doctor. One should also make sure to get vitamin D through sunlight and the food rich in this vitamin.
Sources Of Vitamin D
Food: Very few foods in nature contain vitamin D. The flesh of fatty fish (such as salmon, tuna, and mackerel) and fish liver oils are among the best sources. Small amounts of vitamin D are found in cheese and egg yolks. Vitamin D in these foods is primarily in the form of vitamin D3 and its metabolite 25(OH)D3 . Some mushrooms provide vitamin D2 in variable amounts.
Sun exposure: Most people meet at least some of their vitamin D needs through exposure to sunlight. Ultraviolet (UV) B radiation with a wavelength of 290-320 nanometers penetrates uncovered skin and converts cutaneous 7-dehydrocholesterol to pre-vitamin D3, which in turn becomes vitamin D3. Despite the importance of the sun for vitamin D synthesis, it is prudent to limit exposure of skin to sunlight and UV radiation. UV radiation is a carcinogen responsible for skin cancer and metastatic melanoma.
Dietary supplements
In supplements and fortified foods, vitamin D is available in two forms, D2 (ergocalciferol) and D3 (cholecalciferol) that differ chemically only in their side-chain structure. Vitamin D2 is manufactured by the UV irradiation of ergosterol in yeast, and vitamin D3 is manufactured by the irradiation of 7-dehydrocholesterol from lanolin and the chemical conversion of cholesterol.
Benefits Of Vitamin D
Aid in Weight Management: There is a connection between obesity and vitamin D deficiency, with some studies even showing that getting enough of this key vitamin could also aid in weight loss.
Boosts Brain Health
Vitamin D is important for the brain health and its functioning. Vitamin D receptors are widespread in brain tissue, and vitamin-D’s biologically active form (1,25(OH)(2)D3) has shown neuroprotective effects. The Vitamin D deficiency is associated with a higher risk of developing conditions like schizophrenia, depression, anxiety, seasonal affective disorder and insomnia.
Prevent Cancer Formation
Some studies have found that vitamin D deficiency may be linked to a higher risk of certain types of cancers. According to a review in Frontiers in Endocrinology, vitamin D is believed to affect tumor cell growth, cell differentiation and even destruction of cancer cell.
Strengthens Bones
One of the most well known benefits of vitamin D is its powerful effect on bone density. Getting regular sun exposure and consuming a variety of vitamin D foods in your diet is one of the best ways to keep our bones healthy and strong.
Improves Immune Function
Vitamin D aids in cell replication and helps to protect against the development of autoimmune conditions and infections.
Thus, Vitamin D being the sunshine Vitamin is essential for our sound health particularly, bones, brain and teeth. One must take care of it through periodical tests and proper treatment. Sunshine and rich Vitamin D diet and supplements are the solution for its deficiency. Consult the doctor for the proper diagnosis and treatment through supplement and medicines incase the deficiency is severe. If we become conscious at the early stage we shall save ourselves from its dire side effects and consequences.
(The authors are working with the University of Jammu)