Sun-drenched Middle East has a high vitamin D deficiency rate. Why?

Vitamin D is produced when the skin is exposed to direct sunlight. (Shutterstock)
Updated 10 June 2019
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Sun-drenched Middle East has a high vitamin D deficiency rate. Why?

  • Research shows vitamin D deficiency prevalent among almost 81% of Middle East and North Africa's population
  • Skin color, genetic predisposition, weather and cultural practices are some of the reasons behind the phenomenon

DUBAI: Dubbed the “sunshine vitamin,” vitamin D is produced when the skin is exposed to direct sunlight.

Paradoxically, despite the intense sunshine in the Middle East and North Africa, deficiencies in the vitamin are widespread among the population.

According to research published in the Journal of Nutrition and Metabolism, “the Middle East and North African regions have a very high rate of vitamin D deficiency, which reaches 81 percent among various age groups.”

Reasons for this include cultural practices, climate, genetic disposition and skin color.

Cultural forms of dressing, which include covering major parts of the body, also may affect the skin’s absorption of sunlight, especially for women.

Another reason is the region’s high temperatures, which limit time outdoors for many people.

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Low levels of vitamin D have been linked to a number of illnesses, including rickets and osteomalacia, which weaken bone tissue.

Researchers at the Eastern Mediterranean Health Journal said the deficiency can also be attributed to “a racial difference in vitamin D concentration or a genetic predisposition to vitamin D deficiency among people of Saudi Arabia.”

Skin color also affects the skin’s ability to synthesize sunlight into vitamin D. 

A paper published in 2011 by Floor Christie of the University of Sunderland and Linda Mason of the Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine found that women with darker complexions require two hours of sun exposure to produce the same amount of vitamin D that a woman with lighter complexion can produce in 12 minutes.

“Creating areas where women, particularly those of lower socioeconomic status, can enjoy sun exposure, as well as fortifying more foods, would go some way toward tackling this problem,” they wrote.

Low levels of vitamin D have been linked to a number of illnesses, including rickets and osteomalacia, which weaken bone tissue. 

Severe cases of rickets may result in stunted growth and skeletal deformities in children.

Recent studies show that vitamin D deficiency is also linked to various types of cancer, some coronary heart diseases, and type 1 and 2 diabetes. It is also correlated to ailments such as multiple sclerosis, rheumatoid arthritis, hypertension and Alzheimer’s disease.

Moreover, research has also suggested a link between vitamin D deficiency and some mental health problems, including depression.

Most doctors recommend vitamin D supplements since exposure to sunlight and food intake may not always be sufficient to meet the required dose.

 

 


San Francisco becomes first major US city to ban e-cigarette sales

This file photo taken on October 02, 2018 shows a man exhaling smoke from an electronic cigarette in Washington, DC on October 2, 2018. (AFP)
Updated 26 June 2019
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San Francisco becomes first major US city to ban e-cigarette sales

  • Since 2014, e-cigarettes have been the most commonly used tobacco product among young people in the country

LOS ANGELES: San Francisco on Tuesday became the first major US city to effectively ban the sale and manufacture of electronic cigarettes.
The city’s legislature unanimously approved an ordinance which backers said was necessary due to the “significant public health consequences” of a “dramatic surge” in vaping among youths.
The ordinance says e-cigarette products sold in shops or online in San Francisco would need approval by federal health authorities, which none currently has.
US health authorities are alarmed by the rise in popularity of e-cigarettes, battery-powered devices which enable users to inhale nicotine liquids that are often fruit flavored.
The number of young Americans using e-cigarettes grew by 1.5 million in 2018, with about 3.6 million middle and high school students using vaping products.
San Francisco is home to market-leading e-cigarette maker Juul.
The city’s mayor London Breed has 10 days to sign the legislation, which she has said she will do.
“We need to take action to protect the health of San Francisco’s youth and prevent the next generation of San Franciscans from becoming addicted to these products,” Breed said in a statement Tuesday ahead of the vote.
She added that e-cigarette companies were “targeting our kids in their advertising and getting them hooked on addictive nicotine products.”
But critics say the legislation will make it harder for people seeking alternatives to regular cigarettes. E-cigarettes do not contain the cancer-causing products found in tobacco.
An editorial in the Los Angeles Times noted that regular cigarettes were still for sale in San Francisco, arguing that “it’s bad public health policy to come down harder on the lesser of two tobacco evils.”
Juul said in a statement Monday that a ban would “not effectively address underage use and will leave cigarettes on shelves as the only choice for adult smokers.”
Concern is growing about the potential health consequences of vaping, which remain largely unknown in part because the practice is so new.
Experts point out that it took decades to determine that smoking tobacco — which accounts for more than seven million premature deaths worldwide every year — is truly dangerous.
Beside the well-known addictive consequences of consuming nicotine, public health experts are focusing on the effect of heating the liquid nicotine cartridges to high temperatures.
The San Francisco ordinance text said that nicotine exposure during adolescence “can harm the developing brain” and “can also increase risk for future addiction to other drugs.”
Unlike an e-cigarette ban in force in Singapore, the San Francisco legislation does not restrict the use of vaping products.
Recreational cannabis use has been legal in California for people over the age of 21 since January 1, 2018.