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Counter the deficiency

THOUGH D is produced naturally in the body by exposure to sunlight, its deficiency is very common across the world and Indians, in particular, are at high risk. "We are genetically prone to vitamin D deficiency which is why we need to be out in the sun more often than the westerners who faces the problem only when they age," says Dr K K Aggarwal, general physician and cardiologist, Moolchand Medcity.

According to a study conducted at the All India Institute of Medical Sciences, more than 75 per cent of healthy people in northern India have vitamin D deficiency, irrespective of age or socio-economic status. "Our traditional set up was such that we were bound to spend time in sun playing outdoor games, working in the fields or knitting. The famous yoga sequence of surya namaskar is also meant to make you spend time in the sun. That, however, is not the case anymore with people working long hours in office, doing yoga postures in front of TV and children playing indoor video games," says Dr Aggarwal.

Those who are overweight have less Vitamin D circulating in their blood as the vitamin gets stored in the fat instead. Ironically, increasing their D levels can help fat people shed weight. However, just because you are not taking enough sun does not mean you can gulp down vitamin D supplements without any precaution.

"Don't try self medication. If you are living with a disease, ask your doctor if vitamin D supplementation can help. He will prescribe the amount you require. You can also go for annual test to check levels of vitamin D in your body," says Dr Ashutosh Shukla, head of internal medicine, Artemis Health Institute. An adult needs 600-800 IU of vitamin D daily. Try and include the few kinds of food that contain Vitamin D in your diet.

Natural food sources of vitamin D are limited and include oily fish like salmon, tuna, cod liver, herring and eggs. The best source obviously is sunlight and 20 minutes exposure can help you maintain the optimal levels.

When you ingest vitamin D supplements, only about 60 per cent of it is absorbed as compared to 100 per cent absorption when your body makes it through sun exposure. Morning sunshine is the best for synthesis of D in your body because its wavelength is most potent. So those who often wake up at noon are missing the right vitamin delivery.