New study finds low vitamin D intakes among UK South Asians

South Asians living in the UK may need to increase their intake of vitamin D either through diet or supplementation to avoid a deficiency. — juankphoto/IStock.com pic via AFP
South Asians living in the UK may need to increase their intake of vitamin D either through diet or supplementation to avoid a deficiency. — juankphoto/IStock.com pic via AFP

LONDON, June 26 — A new UK study has found that the country's South Asian population is at a high risk of vitamin D deficiency, with researchers now calling for public health strategies to urgently tackle the problem and prevent health problems.

Carried out by researchers from the University of Surrey, the new study is the largest of its kind so far, with the team gathering data from 8,024 Bangladeshi, Indian, and Pakistani adults aged 40-69 years who took part in the long-term health study UK Biobank.

The researchers looked at the vitamin D intake of the South Asian participants, a population which can be susceptible to low vitamin D levels due to their darker skin pigmentation, a tendency to avoid the sun, and high skin coverage due to clothing, making it even more important that they have an adequate oral intake of vitamin D through diet or supplementation.

However, the researchers found that vitamin D intake through diet was low among the participants, at 1.0-3.0 microgrammes per day.

The team also found that there were differences between the ethnicities, with Bangladeshis having on average higher vitamin D intake (3.0mcg) than Indians (1.0mcg), although all of the groups were below both the European Food Safety Authority recommendation (15 mcg per day) and the Public Health England recommendation (10 mcg per day).

Use of supplements was also low, with just 22 per cent of Bangladeshis, 32 per cent of Indians, and 25 per cent of Pakistanis taking a vitamin-D-containing supplement.

The team also found that women were more likely to take a vitamin D supplement than men, with 39 per cent of female participants taking a supplement compared to 22 per cent of males, and younger participants were less likely to take supplements than older participants.

Lead author Dr Andrea Darling commented on the findings saying, "Such low levels of vitamin D intake and vitamin D supplement use in this population group is very concerning. Vitamin D is crucial to ensuring our overall health and a lack of it leads to an increased risk of chronic illnesses putting an additional strain on the NHS."

“Urgent steps are required to remedy this problem and avoid a public health crisis amongst UK South Asians.”

A lack of vitamin D can increase the risk of a variety of chronic diseases including osteoporosis, cancer and cardiovascular disease.

The results can be found published online in the journal Public Health Nutrition. — AFP-Relaxnews

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