Ooh, Aah, Ouch! Why 75% Of India’s Bones Are Aching
In a nation of sun worshipers, three quarters of our population is deficient in Vitamin D. How did it get so bad?
(Every year, 12 October is observed as World Arthritis Day to increase awareness on bone health. In India, doctors say that nearly 15% of our population suffers from arthritis, a whopping 75% by Vitamin D deficiency, which is rendering our bones weak.)
At some point in the last five years, screening blood for Vitamin D deficiency became routine for patients, who came to hospitals groaning and paining. The exercise hasn’t been futile.
Indians have weak bones. It’s official. The World Congress of Osteoporosis declared that our bones are far more fragile, deformed and prone to osteoporosis than the Americans or the Brits.
The deformities in the bones of Indians are significant. We don’t see an extent of wear and tear in America.Dr Eerek Zeegan, Leading Orthopedic Surgeon, Los Angeles to IANS
It’s everywhere and everyone has it. A part of the problem is our low-calcium, low-protein and high-carb diet, which is not good for the health of the bones. I have college kids as patients, 20-something office-goers, pregnant women and senior citizens. It’s like an epidemic and we’re still not pressing the panic button.Dr Sandeep Kapoor, Orthopedic Consultant
So how did a nation of sun worshipers come at the verge of this nutritional apocalypse?
How Did It Get So Bad For India and Are the Cold Countries Immune?
Vitamin D is not a simple vitamin, it is a steroid hormone which you get when exposed to direct sunlight. Even 15 minutes of unobstructed sunlight on bare skin is enough to manufacture Vitamin D, which in turn absorbs calcium for better bone health. But it’s no longer just bone health at stake here.
At a recent seminar organised by Cadila Pharmaceuticals in the National Capital, Dr Michael Holick, a global authority pioneering Vitamin D research from over 40 years, pointed out that tackling Vitamin D deficiencies could prevent chronic illnesses, which claim nearly one million lives across the world each year.
When it comes to Vitamin D, you don’t want to be in the ‘normal’ or ‘average’ range, you should be in the ‘optimum’ range. Deficiency can soften bones, make them brittle, increase the risk of diabetes, heart diseases, certain cancers and hypertension.Dr Michael Holick, MD, Vitamin D researcher, Author ‘The Vitamin D Solution’
The big question then, if modern, air-conditioned lifestyles can make the sun go down on vitamin levels in a sunny country like India, the Western countries which are stuck in the cocoon of cold with limited daylight for months should be cracking up at the knees by now?
This was one of the major talking points at the World Congress of Osteoporosis. Genetically Americans have denser bones than Indians, their obsession with fitness has also resulted in better quality bones, feel some experts. They are not immune from Vitamin D deficiency but are doing better than us. Decades back they recognised the crisis and started fortifying their milk, cereals, juices and butter with vitamins. That has helped tremendously.
So Should We All Gobble Down Vitamin D Supplements?
Follow your doctor’s advise on this.
Vitamin D research is still in nascent stages and the science around it is evolving every day.
Till now, scientists haven’t reached a consensus on what is the ideal level of vitamin D requirement on a daily basis. Three different formulae are approved to calculate the dosage limit. It’s still unclear at which point does toxicity set in, how much do we really need to avail health benefits and the side effects of popping in excess dosages of the vitamin (below the point of toxicity).
While it’s tempting to reach out to supplements to ward off the risk of cancer or heart disease, a 2014 study by the University of Alberta found that people who took Vitamin D supplements were still deficient. So the researchers wondered if the safe Vitamin D limit set up by the government was too low.
So what should you do?
Bask in the sun everyday for at least 15 to 20 minutes and up your milk intake. If you are a fish eater then salmon and tuna are excellent sources of dietary Vitamin D and so are egg yolks and cheese. If there is a deficiency, strictly complete the Vitamin D course which your physician has recommended, unless you fancy ending up on the surgeon’s table with butter soft bones.
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