You already know that vitamin D is responsible for your strong healthy bones and teeth, and that the abundance of sunlight in Africa makes it easy for our bodies to make the vitamin D we need. However, it has been discovered that despite the significant daily sunlight available in the region at least 33% of Africans are vitamin D-deficient. Why is this so? Well, the answer to this puzzle lies in our bodies and we will learn today about hypovitaminosis D (vitamin D deficiency) and whether taking vitamin D supplements daily can solve this problem.
Globally, it is estimated that at least 1 billion people are vitamin D deficient, which means that this lack of vitamin D isn’t restricted to Africa alone. And this clearly shows that it is crucial to find ways of incorporating vitamin D into our bodies to prevent the adverse effect of this deficiency. There are vitamin-D-rich foods such as egg yolk, fatty fish, cheese, and beef that serve as sources of vitamin D however, adequate exposure to sunshine is also necessary for convert the vitamin D precursors from these food sources to vitamin D in its useful form.
Despite the abundant sunlight in Africa, there is also a higher chance of being vitamin D deficient, as a black person when compared to whites, because more melanin in the skin of black people often reduces the body’s ability to synthesize vitamin D from the sun, since the vitamin D from our food needs to converted into the final form that the body can use. Recently, there have also been links between COVID-19 and vitamin D deficiency, where a study about vitamin D deficiency in 2020 revealed that those with vitamin D deficiency are twice as likely to test positive to COVID-19.
Apart from the higher risk of COVID-19 infection, vitamin D deficiency includes loss of bone density which can lead to osteoporosis or fracture. It can also increase the risk of diseases such as asthma, psoriasis, rheumatoid arthritis, and tuberculosis. Vitamin D deficiency can also increase the risk of several major cancers including breast, prostate, ovarian, and, particularly, colon cancer. It can predispose you to autoimmune diseases such as multiple sclerosis and type 1 diabetes. In children, vitamin D deficiency causes rickets, which is a rare disease that causes the bone to become soft and bend.
To avoid any of these issues, a simple solution is vitamin D supplementation either from the diet, or supplement. Generally, a daily vitamin D intake of 1000 – 4000IU is recommended to ensure optimal blood levels in most people. However, it is expected that black people generally take more vitamin D supplementation than the recommended value. For kids, taking an estimated 600IU per day is adequate to meet the daily requirement.
Studies have shown that it is safe to take 10,000IU of vitamin D per day to correct or prevent vitamin D deficiency. In some cases, you may need as much as 50,000IU of vitamin D especially for individuals with significant vitamin D deficiency. This can be taken once a week for six to eight weeks. Once the deficiency is corrected, you can then start taking 1000IU daily vitamin D supplementation is also useful in managing COVID-19 patients because it can reduce the inflammatory response associated with the disease.