Jigmi Wangdi

Hiding under the thick layers of warm clothes could be a contributing factor in Vitamin D deficiency, points a study conducted on those visiting the Jigme Dorji Wangchuck National Referral Hospital in Thimphu.

In addition, the dietary preference of Bhutanese that was low on fish consumption was another factor, where 18 percent of the 1175 individuals who took part in the study showed severe Vitamin Deficiency. The study also found that over 83 percent of the sampled population had serum Vitamin D levels lower than the normal range, while 16.6 percent had vitamin D within the normal range.

The study aimed to study the vitamin D levels among the population undergoing vitamin D tests at the JDWNRH and establish a baseline study for further studies.

According to the study, Vitamin D was an important micro‑nutrient required for the human body, as it played a significant role in the regulation and expression of hundreds of genes and was identified as an essential hormone required for various physiological processes.

And a deficiency would be associated with several health problems, such as various cancers, heart diseases, diabetes, infectious diseases, and autoimmune disorders, among others. It was also recognised as the missing ingredient that helped to prevent rickets in growing children.

The study shared that the human body has receptors on all vital organs for vitamin D, including the heart, brain, bones, kidneys, and liver.

A total of 1175 individuals took the vitamin D test during the study period, and the ages ranged between one day and 94 years. Over 60 percent of the participants were females.

The study highlighted that over 90 percent of the vitamin D that people need comes from exposure to sunlight. However, the exposure to sunlight among Bhutanese was minimal due to thick clothing, influenced by higher altitude cold temperatures. The study reported that this could be one of the main reasons for vitamin D deficiency in the population.

Second, the study presented that fish, such as salmon, tuna, baby sardines and mackerel, were a major source of vitamin D in the diet. However, Bhutanese intake of fish was generally poor and unpreferred.

The study suggests further research needs to be carried out to validate these findings and identify the factors associated with vitamin D deficiency in the population for targeted public health interventions.