Vitamin D and sunlight

The other ‘food’ topic I have been interested in for some time is vitamin D. There will be more comment to come on this, but recently because of the discussion about Muslim women in Europe wearing the burka I was wondering why vitamin D deficiency had not been mentioned as a problem. A major route to getting enough vitamin D is through synthesis in our skin from exposure to UVB.

Vitamin D plays such a central role in cell processes that deficiency causes many health problems. In the days when rickets was a problem for children, it was not rickets that killed them but infectious diseases for which they had little immune resistance. I can accept that in places in the middle east where the sunlight comes strong through a clear sky and women have a back yard where they may wear less body covering there may be less vitamin D deficiency, but in Europe where sunlight is weaker and skies are cloudier and in winter UVB is near zero anyway, vitamin D deficiency will be a real problem Рespecially for women coming from the hot countries whose skin has pigmentation for UV protection as well. A the very least these women should be taking oral vitamin D supplements regardless of the argument over the burka.

[Postscript: I should have used Google before these notes. I find there is some recent discussion in Letters in The Independent on 20/07/2010. It shows that one assumption of mine is wrong. One letter says,¬†“The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition for June 2007 reported that, out of 178 burka-wearing women studied by the United Arab Emirates University, Al Ain, only two were not vitamin D-deficient.” I did not find the word “burka” in the paper and some did expose their face and hands, but given that the exposure to sunlight was 1 minute per day (+-3.8) {I did not find what -2.8 minutes exposure meant!} they are secluded from the outer world. Vitamin D oral supplement was recommended.]