(MENAFN - Khaleej Times) There's a special game you can play in the UAE. It's called 'How low is your Vitamin D?' - and it's especially relevant here, considering about 90 per cent of the UAE's population suffers from Vitamin D deficiency, according to recent data from the International Osteoporosis Federation (IOF).
Crazy that the land known for its super sunny summers should have so many residents deficient in the 'sunshine vitamin' - but so it is.
According to Web MD, a level of 20-50 ng/ml is considered adequate for healthy people, while a level less than 12 indicates a deficiency. But if you thought it's just rickets in children that might occur as a result, think again.
Vitamin D has proven to be essential for the effective functioning of the immune system, muscles, blood circulation, and even brain development. Studies have shown that a deficiency can lead to bone metabolism disorders, cardiovascular disease, diabetes and even cancer.
So how do you know if you're at risk? Here are five symptoms to watch out for:
Frequent stress fractures - These occur when bone density is low. Both calcium and vitamin D are critical to keeping bones strong, according to Harvard Health. The former is vital for bone-building, while the latter is indispensable to the process as it helps the body absorb calcium. A 2015 study found that at least half of patients with stress fractures who had their vitamin D levels tested had insufficient levels.
Chronic pain - Do you have aches and pains and general weakness that doesn't seem to respond to treatment? You might want to check your Vitamin D levels. Over the last decade, an increasing number of doctors are beginning to take note of a possible link between the two. It may not be the solution for all, but if merely upping your levels reduces your pain - that's an inexpensive treatment plan right there.
Low immunity - If you're constantly falling ill, this too may be an indicator that your levels are low. Bestselling author of The Autoimmune Solution, D Amy Myers notes, "Vitamin D turns on key peptides in your immune system that trigger a strong anti-microbial response, allowing you to quickly and effectively fight off invaders before they can develop into a full-blown infection." Insufficient levels may therefore leave you vulnerable to constant illness.
Hair loss - Although doctors say it's normal to lose up to 100 hairs a day, anything more severe may be a potential marker for low Vitamin D levels. Studies have shown that vitamin D possibly helps regulate the expression of genes that fosters normal hair follicle growth. So, if you've tried everything else, ask your doctor to run a Vitamin D test too.
Depression - Growing research is pointing to the link between vitamin D and depression. According to VitaminDCouncil.org, some researchers suggest that vitamin D supplements may work for depression when someone has very low levels of vitamin D to begin with. However, it may work less well for people who already have sufficient levels. Although studies are yet to find conclusive proof of a link, a little bit of sun exposure is generally linked to a better mood, so go on and get out in the sun!