With a UAE study confirming that vitamin D deficiency can put one at increased risk of severe Covid-19, doctors have highlighted the importance of getting enough of the sunshine vitamin. But how will you know if your vitamin D levels need a boost?
Healthcare specialists said that a vitamin D test can be taken if one experiences pain in the joints, bones and muscles, and if he or she often gets sick or experiences fatigue.
Dr Rasha Alani, family medicine specialist at Medcare Medical Centre, said on average, it would be good to get vitamin D levels checked every three to six months.
“In Middle East, we experience hot weather most of the seasons, so from a medical opinion, people can take the vitamin D test frequently as it goes down whenever we avoid sun exposure,” Dr Alani said.
Doctors prescribe a test to ‘measure the serum 25(OH)D concentrations’. A simple blood test can also determine vitamin levels.
The cost of such tests varies from one hospital to another. At Aster Clinics, it is priced at Dh99.
Health experts and researchers have reiterated that getting enough vitamin D bolsters one’s immunity and keeps Covid-19 at bay.
A study, conducted by Dr Habiba Al Safar from the Khalifa University Centre and Dr Fatme Al Anouti from the Zayed University, established a strong link between vitamin D deficiency and the severity of Covid-19 infections. In its evaluation of over 500 Covid patients, 59 per cent of those deficient in the sunshine vitamin showed more severe symptoms.
Vitamin D, which is also called calciferol, is one of the most important fat-soluble vitamins for health. It plays a major role in calcium absorption and in reducing inflammation, as observed among Covid-19 patients.
Sun is the best source of the vitamin, and with UAE as ‘a sunlight paradise’, it is relatively easy to get enough of it all year round. Dr Asma Binte Shahid, cardiologist (GP) at Kings college Hospital London Dubai, said: “The best way to boost Vitamin D is to spend time in sunlight, but during early morning hours or once the sun is about to set.”
However, direct sunlight exposure in the middle of the day is not advisable, the doctors said.
Vitamin D isn’t naturally found in the food items people normally consume, said Dr Kirti Mohan Marya, orthopaedic surgery specialist at Aster Specialist Centre for Orthopaedics and Physiotherapy.
“So, we should consider getting it from fortified milk, fortified cereal, and fatty fish such as salmon, mackerel and sardines,” Dr Kirti said.
“Vitamin D is a nutrient our body needs for building and maintaining healthy bones. It also regulates many other functions in your body at microscopic levels. Its anti-inflammatory, antioxidant and neuroprotective properties support immune health, muscle function and brain cell activity,” the expert added.