Ipoh Echo’s EYE HEALTH series continues with Consultant Eye Surgeon Dr S.S. GILL talking to us more about the often forgotten Vitamin D.
Beautiful Malaysia has abundant sunlight and so most people would not think that there are no cases of vitamin D deficiency in our country. The truth is that despite abundant sunlight, you may not be having enough vitamin D simply because you’re not out there under the sun enough!
VITAMIN D SOURCES
Vitamin D is synthesized in our skin when it is exposed to sunlight. This is then transported to the liver and kidney where it is metabolized into the active form of vitamin D. The question that arises is, how much sunlight exposure are you actually getting? Malaysian women in their unending chase for a fair and flawless skin would inadvertently not expose themselves enough to sunlight. Most individuals also use a sunscreen and this blocks off the UVB rays required for the skin to produce vitamin D. Those with darker skins need to expose themselves to sunlight for a much longer time in order to make the same amount of vitamin D as the fair-skinned. Foods like salmon, dairy products, mushrooms and eggs are sources of vitamin D but you will need to eat a fairly large quantity in order to meet the daily dietary requirements. An alternative option is in the form of vitamin D supplements.
WHAT DOES VITAMIN D DO?
Vitamin D is vital for the regulation of calcium and phosphorus which takes care of bone formation. The vitamin D is needed for the calcium that we consume in our diets to be absorbed in the gut. Any lack of calcium predisposes the elderly to osteoporosis and osteomalacia (softening of bone). Vitamin D is also required for the maintenance of our immune system, plays a part in weight control, improves control of type 1 diabetes mellitus, helps control hypertension and reduces the risk of cancers like breast and colon cancers. It also has a role in improving brain function and has been known to reduce the risk of multiple sclerosis too.
HOW DOES VITAMIN D HELP THE EYES?
Vitamin D helps in preventing age-related macular degeneration (AMD) which is a common cause for poor vision in old age. It reduces inflammation in the retina and lowers accumulation of substances like amyloid beta that contributes to AMD. Simply said, vitamin D plays a part in ‘rejuvenating’ the eyes. A recent study that was published suggested a protective role of vitamin D in the development of Dry Eye.
RECOMMENDED DIETARY ALLOWANCE OF VITAMIN D
The recommended dietary allowance (RDA) is 600 IU for those 1-70 years of age and 800 IU for those over 71 years of age. One way to know if you have enough vitamin D is to do a blood test. Beware of taking too much vitamin D as it can cause hypercalcemia (too much calcium) in your blood which can make you feel confused, nauseous and tired.
Key points to remember:
- Get adequate sunshine of at least 15 minutes a day three times a week.
- Dark skinned individuals will require longer exposure to sunlight for vitamin D.
- Get a blood test done if you are unsure of your vitamin D status.
- Eat a good, balanced diet with some vitamin D supplements in moderation if needed.
- Always check whether the medication you are taking has any effects on vitamin D.
- Avoid smoking. A healthy lifestyle makes all the difference!