Bring on the sunshine

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So you step out of the house, only after slathering a good squeeze of sunscreen, taking refuge under the umbrella, you prefer to walk by the shades and spend the entire day in the comforts of your air- conditioned office, where you would get no whiff of the temperature outside, whatever be it.

Well, it’s all about avoiding the sun exposure, isn’t it? After all, that’s what all those sleeky celebrity endorsed advertisements are shrieking about. From pigmentation to premature ageing, sun is the biggest foe of your skin. However, if you go by what the experts say, shunning the sun is definitely not a health smart move; as the sunshine drug holds the key to your holistic well- being.

” About 80 per cent of Indians are deficient in Vitamin D. These include children, adolescents, working professionals, pregnant women, among others. The main reason is spending too much time indoors. There is an increased consciousness about sun prevention and that is leading us to avoid it completely.

The Vitamin D which we need to make won’t come through those glass walls in buildings,” says Dr SP Byotra, head, internal medicine, Sir Gangaram Hospital.

That apart, smog, pollution, and moisturising creams with UV protection have also added up to our list of sun armours.

Scientific studies have proven that Vitamin D is like the ignition key to your car; the car won’t run unless you turn the key and ignite the engine. So get started in the right direction, before it gets too late.

Major Health Problem

If there is a Vitamin that affects more than half of the population, is scarcely available from our food supply and the deficiency of which is so easy to treat yet so often not diagnosed, it is Vitamin D. “Vitamin D deficiency is a major health problem seen these days. It is therefore, recommended that people who fall under the risk category or those with frequent back pain, unexplained muscle pain, general fatigue are most likely to be Vit- amin D deficient. Therefore, they should consult their physicians to get their levels tested,” says Dr Anoop Misra, chairman, Fortis- C- DOC Centre of Excellence for Diabetes, Metabolic Diseases and Endocrinology.

In dark skinned persons who fall into the high risk category, presence of excess melanin in the skin can impair its ability to make vitamin D. So, Indian skin needs more exposure to sunlight as compared to whites in order to generate the same amount of Vitamin D. ” Inadequate sun exposure, is one of the most common causes of the deficiency, as sunlight is crucial for the synthesis of Vitamin D in the skin. Spending most of the time indoors, keeping the whole body covered with thick garments as prevalent in certain cultures and use of sunscreen with SPF ( Sun Protection Factor) of 30 decreases Vitamin D synthesis in the skin by more than 95 per cent,” says Dr Swati Bhardwaj senior research officer ( Nutrition), Diabetes Foundation of India.

Proactive Prevention

Taking a safe middle ground would definitely help, say doctors.

” It’s a treatable condition and the health issues linked to the deficiency can be easily avoided by simple measures,” says Dr Byotra.

While its important to tread caution when exposing infants and children to the sun, adults should also endure moderate exposure.

” Spending time in sunlight is one of the most effective ways of increasing Vitamin D levels.

About 20- 30 minutes of skin exposure over the bare arms and face to sunlight, without application of sunscreen, preferably between 10 am to 3 pm ( as maximum ultraviolet B rays are transmitted during this time) is adequate to avoid the deficiency,” says Dr Misra.

While natural food sources can help, their aid is limited. ” In western countries dairy products and cereals are fortified with Vitamin D, in India, however we largely have to depend on sunlight. This is specifically applicable for the vegetarians,” says Dr Bhardwaj.

Here again, going natural shall be more effective. When you ingest the supplements, only about 60 per cent of it is absorbed as compared to 100 per cent of it when the body makes it through sun exposure, health experts point out.

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