By Joan Sumpio, RND–
Many experts are still in denial that a big number of Asians are suffering from, if not at risk of having, Vitamin D deficiency. Experts who say that it is next to impossible for Asians to have vitamin D deficiency do not have a clear picture of the way of life of Asians.
Individuals who live in a tropical country would actually often shelter themselves from the sun’s rays to keep their skin from getting darker. This practice alone already puts most Asian populations at risk of having inadequate vitamin D.
To the working Asian population, longer office hours keep them from being exposed to the sun’s rays for a reasonable time. Many would say that they leave for work before the sun rises and go home when the sun has set – another reason why many people miss the sun’s health benefits. Although it is true that many foods are now fortified with vitamin D, we cannot guarantee that this is enough. Note that a lot of foods have been fortified with vitamin A, Iron and Iodine, and yet, its deficiency is still a big public health problem.
Vitamin D is well known to be a very important bone nutrient. Its primary function is to maintain blood levels of calcium and phosphorus concentrations at a range that will support body processes, neuromuscular functions and bone building/strengthening activities. Aside from these important functions, vitamin D also acts like a hormone that stimulates maturation of cells including those of the immune system.
Vitamin D is also beneficial to our brain functions. In one study, participants with vitamin D deficiency were found to have higher risk of substantial cognitive decline by 60 percent compared to those with sufficient vitamin D levels. As we age, our cognitive performance naturally declines. With vitamin D deficiency, this decline is accelerated.
If you do not experience this accelerated decline in cognitive function, you should have regular exposure to sunlight for at least 15 minutes in day.
On days when you are most sheltered from sunlight, make sure you incorporate vitamin D food sources into your meal plans. Foods like salmon, sardines, and those fortified with vitamin D (milk, cheese/cheese spreads, breakfast cereals, pasta and margarine)are sources of vitamin D.
Presently, our recommended daily intake for vitamin D is 5ug for the general population. For those aged 50 – 64 years old there is higher recommended intake of 10ug and for those above 65 years old, a daily intake of 15 ug is recommended. Prolonged exposure under the sun does not pose any risk because the body can regulate the production of vitamin D3 from the sun; it is our exogenous intake of vitamin D that we have to watch out for as chronic excessive intake can lead to bone resorption.