vitamin d Matt Cardy/Stringer

The Many Benefits of Vitamin D

Vitamin D deficiencies are widespread, affecting around one billion people of all age groups and ethnicities, even in countries with year-round sunshine. This matters because the health benefits of adequate vitamin D intake may be even greater than previously thought.

SINGAPORE – Vitamin D helps our bodies regulate levels of calcium and phosphate – nutrients that keep bones, teeth, and muscles healthy. Often, sunlight on our skin can be enough to enable us to produce all the vitamin D we need. But when sunshine is lacking, vitamin D must be ingested, and it can be difficult to meet the recommended levels from food alone. This matters because the health benefits of adequate vitamin D intake may be even greater than previously thought.

Vitamin D deficiencies are widespread, with around one billion people, from all age groups and ethnicities, suffering from them, even in countries with year-round sunshine. Indeed, they are particularly common in the Middle East, owing partly to the prevalence of skin-covering clothes and a cultural habit of staying out of the sun. That same habit, together with darker skin, contributes to lower levels of vitamin D among Africans.

Even in industrialized countries, doctors are seeing the resurgence of rickets, a bone-weakening disease that had been largely eradicated through vitamin-fortified milk and other products. And rickets is far from the only disease to which vitamin D deficiency may contribute. Research conducted over the last decade suggests that vitamin D plays a much broader disease-fighting role than once thought.

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