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the Message Continues ... 8/75


Newsletter for November 2007


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  Science and Health   "Vitamin D is essential for good health!"
By Rachel Kayani

...A little light goes a long way !
Research over the past few years has shown that vitamin D is essential to good health, reducing the risks of developing a wide range of medical conditions including osteoporosis, heart disease, diabetes, arthritis, multiple sclerosis and certain cancers. As if that was not enough to convince us of its potential benefits the biggest review of the effects of Vitamin D has found that it can reduce your risk of dying from all causes.

Most people get the vitamins they need from eating a healthy balanced diet, but Vitamin D is an exception in that very little comes from our foods. Instead Vitamin D is made by the action of sunlight on the skin, which accounts for around 90% of the body’s supply. But due to lifestyle changes people spend less time outdoors in the sunlight, especially children, and the effects of sunblock too mean that scientists are concerned we may not be producing enough of this vitamin. The weak winter sun in Britain reduces the body’s ability to make this vitamin, and according to scientists, 60% of the population is Vitamin D deficient by spring.

Low levels of Vitamin D during the winter months could explain why we tend to get more ailments, such as coughs and colds, at this time of the year. One study in America found that giving Vitamin D supplements to a group of volunteers reduced episodes of infection with colds and flu by 70% over 3 years. Other health discrepancies such as the higher rates of heart disease in northern European countries, like the UK, as compared with southern Europe, could also be related to sun exposure as much as the Mediterranean diet.

The most commonly associated disease with vitamin D deficiency is rickets. Rickets was common in children 100 years ago, and was characterized by ‘bow-legs’ due to softening and deformity of the bone because of lack of vitamin D, which is essential for calcium absorption and hence bone development. It was effectively eradicated by improvements in nutrition. However, doctors have been surprised to discover several cases of rickets in recent years, most notably amongst UK Asians. Darker skin produces Vitamin D more slowly that lighter skin, and lack of exposure to sunlight means that growing children may not get enough Vitamin D.

In addition, traditional Muslim dress can mean very little skin is exposed to sunlight, which can have serious health implications for young women, especially during pregnancy, as it can affect the mother’s and the baby’s health. In light of this, health experts are seeking to propose that supplements should be provided for pregnant women deemed at risk, such as vegans and women who cover their skin for religious reasons.

The good news is that getting enough Vitamin D is relatively simple. All you need is a bit of sunlight, in fact just 15 minutes of sunlight on your hands and face several times a week is enough. To boost intake in food, people need to eat oily fish (salmon, sardines etc), eggs, milk and fortified cereals, take vitamin supplements.







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