Work­ers and chil­dren are vul­ner­a­ble as the ma­jor­ity spend most of their day in­doors

Business Daily (Kenya) - - LIFE - SARAH OOKO sara­

Overdressing and spend­ing less time out­doors height­ens health risks due to vi­ta­min D de­fi­ciency, ex­perts have warned.

Those in the for­mal em­ploy­ment sec­tor are the most vul­ner­a­ble to this prob­lem as a ma­jor­ity leave for work early in the morn­ing (be­fore the sun is fully out) then stay in­doors un­til evening (af­ter sun­set) when they head back home.

Evans Amukoye, di­rec­tor of re­search and De­vel­op­ment at the Kenya Med­i­cal Re­search In­sti­tute (Kemri), says this prob­lem ex­tends to homes as par­ents tend to lock their chil­dren in­doors — for safety and other con­cerns — in­stead of al­low­ing them to play out­side in the sun which stim­u­lates the pro­duc­tion of vi­ta­min D in the body.

Vi­ta­min D pro­motes good bone and den­tal health. It of­fers pro­tec­tion against a range of con­di­tions such as can­cer, type 1 diabetes and mul­ti­ple scle­ro­sis whilst boost­ing im­mune sys­tems and en­hanc­ing qual­ity car­dio­vas­cu­lar health and brain func­tion­ing.

Those with in­suf­fi­cient amounts of vi­ta­min D suf­fer from bone pain, fre­quent frac­tures and soft bones that may re­sult in de­for­mi­ties such as rick­ets among chil­dren. They may also com­plain of mus­cle weak­ness, un­ex­plained fa­tigue and a myr­iad of dis­eases re­sult­ing from low body im­mu­nity.

The best source of vi­ta­min D is the sun, which usu­ally stim­u­lates the pro­duc­tion of the nu­tri­ent in the skin.

But since dark-skinned peo­ple have higher lev­els of melanin — pig­ment that gives hu­man skin its colour — than white-skinned in­di­vid­u­als, Dr Amukoye says Africans are vul­ner­a­ble to vi­ta­min D de­fi­ciency as melanin re­duces the skin’s abil­ity to pro­duce the vi­ta­min from the sun. It, how­ever, of­fers some de­gree of pro­tec­tion against skin can­cer among dark­skinned peo­ple.

“We need to spend more time in the sun so as to pre­vent vi­ta­min D de­fi­ciency. This is es­pe­cially im­por­tant for chil­dren as their bod­ies are still de­vel­op­ing.”

Su­san Musilu, con­sul­tant di­eti­cian, and nu­tri­tion­ist states that be­ing in the sun is not enough.

“The sun’s rays have to hit your bare skin. So hav­ing a short-sleeved shirt or blouse while out of the of­fice can help, in­stead of cov­er­ing your­self com­pletely.”

In­deed, a pre­vi­ous study showed that men were at a great risk of vi­ta­min D de­fi­ciency as they spend time — in and out­side the of­fice — with longsleeved shirts that cover their hands as well as trousers and socks that cover their legs and feet thus block­ing the sun from reach­ing most of their skin.

About 20 to 30 min­utes daily skin ex­po­sure to the sun (in the morn­ing or af­ter­noon) is enough for suf­fi­cient vi­ta­min D pro­duc­tion.

Ac­cord­ing to Musilu, those un­able to get suf­fi­cient sun­shine can still get rec­om­mended amounts of the nu­tri­ent through sup­ple­ments.

Other sources of vi­ta­min D in­clude cod liver oil as well as food prod­ucts such as fatty fish, eggs, cheese, cooked sal­mon, beef or liver.

Vi­ta­min D de­fi­ciency is con­sid­ered as a dif­fi­cult dis­ease to di­ag­nose.

This is be­cause many peo­ple with the con­di­tion do not usu­ally de­velop symp­toms un­til their vi­ta­min D lev­els get very low.

This has made it dif­fi­cult for health ex­perts to iden­tify peo­ple with the con­di­tion early enough and fore­stall ad­verse health con­se­quences.

Cur­rently, the only method avail­able for early de­tec­tion of vi­ta­min D de­fi­ciency is an ex­pen­sive blood test that is rarely per­formed un­less clin­i­cians deem it nec­es­sary to do so.

But sci­en­tists have now dis­cov­ered an al­ter­na­tive method that can ad­dress this chal­lenge.

Ac­cord­ing to a new study pub­lished in the In­ter­na­tional Jour­nal of Pa­le­opathol­ogy, the re­searchers found that den­tal X-ray images (show­ing mi­cro­scopic de­for­mi­ties in the den­tine part of teeth) can re­veal those suf­fer­ing from the con­di­tion early enough be­fore the ail­ment causes ad­verse health ef­fects.

“Now we know which teeth to look at. If reg­u­lar den­tal X-rays show a prob­lem, blood tests can con­firm whether there is an on­go­ing de­fi­ciency,” said Lori D’or­ten­zio, lead author of the study from Mc­mas­ter Univer­sity in On­tario, Canada.



WELL­NESS Spend­ing a lot of time in the o ice and wear­ing longsleeved shirts puts most men at risk of vi­ta­min D de iciency.

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