Vitamin D deficiency is prevalent across the globe. Many countries have poor vitamin D status irrespective of age, gender and geographical location. In India, vitamin D deficiency ranges from approx. 50-90%. Among school-going children, it ranges from 84.9-100%, 42-74% among pregnant women and approx. 30-91.2% in adults.
Vitamin D is a fat-soluble vitamin which requires fat in our body for getting absorbed. Vitamin D deficiency occurs due to several reasons like inadequate sources in the diet, limited or no sun exposure, less intake of vitamin D fortified foods, use of sunscreen and skin complexion. Another major reason of vitamin D deficiency is air pollution. Air pollution is an issue which is widely known and we all are the victims of same. Despite taking measures to curb this, the air quality index (AQI) is getting worse day-by-day.
On exposure to sun’s ultraviolet B radiations, 7-dehydrocholesterol in our skin gets converted to active form of vitamin D. Due to high melanin content, Indian skin tone is dusky which reduces the absorption of sun rays in our body. Further, due to pollutants and chemicals in the air, ability of UV rays to enter the Earth’s atmosphere is reduced. Also, when these environmental chemicals are inhaled through air, they disrupt our endocrine pathways further affecting vitamin D absorption leading to vitamin D deficiency. Therefore, air pollution causes vitamin D deficiency in two ways, one by blocking the rays and secondly people avoid going out in toxic air. Heavy metals also affects the kidney tubules function, inhibits calcium absorption, alters the secretion of thyroid and parathyroid hormone. All of which contributes in developing deficiency of vitamin D.
A study was conducted in 2017 in Tehran by Feizabad E et al on adolescents to study the impact of air pollution on vitamin D levels and bone health. It was reported that deficiency was highly prevalent in polluted areas as compared to non-polluted areas. A similar study was conducted in Delhi, where it was listed as one of the polluted cities in the world, by Agarwal K S et al in 2002. There were 34 subjects between 9-24 months old residing in Mori Gate and Gurgaon. It was observed that toddlers living in areas of high atmospheric pollution were at a high risk of developing vitamin D deficiency and rickets.
Prolonged insufficiency of vitamin D results in weak bones, poor bone density, imbalance in the levels of calcium and phosphorus, increased risk of rickets and osteoporosis. It also increases the risk of developing cardiovascular disorders, decreases muscle strength and makes us more prone to fall fractures.
To conclude, it is clearly evident that this air pollution is not only affecting our lungs but also the underlying cause of many deficiency disorders like especially vitamin D3. Already majority of the population is vitamin D deficit, which is getting worse with every increasing day. The way we wear anti-pollution masks to protects ourselves from the ill-effects of air pollution, similarly start consuming vitamin D capsules to put a protective mask on your bones to prevent them from getting weak and develop osteoporosis.
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Sturges. Missy, Canell. John, (2017), Air pollution linked to vitamin D deficiency among adolescents, Vitamin D council. Referred from www.vitamindcouncil.org/
Mousavi. Sayed Esmaeil, Aminicde Pouria. Heresh, Fatemeh Amini. Heydarpour, LodeGodderishi. Chermahini (2019) Air pollution, environmental chemicals, and smoking may trigger vitamin D deficiency: Evidence and potential mechanisms, Elsevier. Retrieved from www.sciencedirect.com/
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