The deficiency of vitamin D in children during the period of active skeletal growth causes rickets, which results from the defective mineralisation of the ends of the growing bones. As a result, the ends remain abnormally pliable and eventually assume a bent form resulting in bowlegs. In adults, the deficiency of vitamin D causes osteomalacia owing to defective mineralisation.
Most foods are low in vitamin D, although it is found in small quantities in butter, cream, egg-yolk and liver. The best food sources of vitamin D are fish liver oils. Milk is a poor source of vitamin D; therefore in some countries milk is fortified with this vitamin. If you can’t stand the taste of milk, the best way to get more of this incredible nutrient may be strolling in the sun. Vitamin D is known as the ‘’sunshine’’ vitamin because your body naturally makes it when ultraviolet B rays from the sun strike your skin. If you choose to play in the sun, follow these tips to get the ‘’ sunshine vitamin ‘’ safely.
● Avoid burning. The same UVB rays that make vitamin D also cause skin cancer. Limit your sun exposure to 20 minutes a day if you burn easily and tan poorly.
● Hold off showering, bathing or swimming for an hour after being in the sun to give your body time to absorb the vitamin.
● Shop for cereals, milk, butter fortified with vitamin D.
● Angle to occasionally eat fatty, cold water fish such as tuna, sardines, herring and mackerel, all rich in this nutrient.
(The writer is a dietician at Atlas Medical Centre, Al khuwair, Muscat.)