Have you ever thought that a Nigerian could have Vitamin D Deficiency in Nigeria? It is easy to automatically assume that anyone living in a ‘Sunshine’ country like Nigeria would not be at risk of Vitamin D deficiency. Especially since sun exposure is one major way to get Vitamin D in the tropics.
Researches done in the past 10 years till date are proving otherwise. Studies in countries like Brazil, India, Ethiopia that have ample sunlight have shown that exposure to sunlight alone does not guarantee a good vitamin D status (Cabral et al, 2013; Ritu and Ajay, 2014; Wakayo et al, 2015).
Why the focus on Vitamin D? A deficiency of Vitamin D is associated with fragile bones in children and adults; infertility, high risk of diabetes, heart diseases and cancer. It is quite obvious that Vitamin D is important to our health and wellbeing.
How can it be then that Nigerians can be deficient in Vitamin D when we have sunlight almost all year round? Here are 6 ways you could be at risk of Vitamin D Deficiency:
- You are out at the ‘wrong’ Time of Day
We have always been told that the best time to get Vitamin D is to be under the morning sun; when it is not scorching hot. However, studies have shown that the best time of day to make Vitamin D is at noon or close to Noon. There is a saying that if your shadow is longer than you, then you are not getting enough vitamin D from the Sun.
- You have ‘poor exposure’ based on your Skin type
If you are dark skinned, your skin would need more time to make Vitamin D than someone who is fair skinned. Fair-skinned people have the ability to make vitamin D faster than Dark-skinned people. This is because Melanin in dark skin provides a natural barrier to the sun’s UV-B rays. A fair-skinned person would need about 10- 25 minutes to produce Vitamin D at noon. A dark-skinned person could take up to two hours to do the same depending on how dark the skin is.
Also, you cannot get vitamin D if you are by a bright window or in a closed car with sunlight streaking in. UV radiation does not penetrate glass.
- You are Using Sunscreen and cosmetics containing sunscreen
Sunscreen mostly blocks UV radiation from the Sun. If you apply sunscreen all over your body or use products that contain sunscreen, you may not be getting much vitamin D even if you are out at noon.
- You are an 8am – 5pm Sedentary Worker
If you get to work every day before noon and you are seated in your office all day till evening, you are not going to get Vitamin D from the Sun. Unless you are eating foods containing Vitamin D, you might need to add Vitamin D supplements to your diet.
- You Habitually cover up your skin from head to toe
If you dress to cover up every part of your body, you may not be getting vitamin D from the Sun. This is common among women who wear Niqabs, Burka and infants. The sun will not pass through your clothings.
To get Vitamin D from the sun, ensure that your face, neck, arm, hands at least have contact with the sun at noon.
- If You are a Vegan
You could be at risk of Vitamin D deficiency if you are a vegan in Nigeria. This also applies if you abstain from eating fatty fish and fatty fish products, Organ meats like liver, milk and milk products, egg yolk, cheese, shrimp. to get Vitamin D, you would need quality sun exposure, increased intake of calcium and use Vitamin D supplements. Soybeans, beans, okra, spinach, oatmeal are some calcium-rich foods suitable for Vegans. Mushrooms also contains Vitamin D.
Apart from exposure to sunlight, you can find vitamin D in your foods. Such foods include oily fish, organ meat, egg yolk, cod liver oil, Shrimp. While there might be available vitamin D foods in Nigeria, many are expensive. Therefore sun exposure seems to be a reliable way to get Vitamin D.
To wrap this up, the sun is for everyone. It is okay for everyone to be under the sun around noon (unless your doctor says not to). A little sun should not hurt if you are worried about cancer risks. You can take your lunch break at about noon to stretch your legs and get your vitamin D. To add to this, eat foods like fatty fish like Titus (Atlantic mackerel, salmon, catfish), eggs, liver, milk, yoghurt, spinach, beans, etc. You can also take healthy fortified products that have vitamin D.
You have to live deliberately. Eat better, live better.