ISLAMABAD - A nutritionist on Friday stressed the need to raise awareness regarding Vitamin D deficiency in children as it can increase the risk of poor bone health.

A clinical dietician Amna Mujeeb Khan while talking to a private news channel said the debilitating problem of vitamin and mineral deficiencies will not be addressed unless efforts are stepped up.

Vitamin D supplements are recommended for all people at risk of a deficiency, including all pregnant and breastfeeding mothers, children under five years old, people aged over 65 and people at risk of not getting enough exposure to sunlight.

Vitamin D is mainly obtained from sunlight. However, too much sun exposure increases the risk of skin cancer, she added.  She further said , Vitamin D is an essential vitamin that you get from food, including fatty fish such as salmon and tuna, beef liver, cheese, and egg yolks, adding, it’s also found in fortified foods such as milk, orange juice, and cereal and you get it from exposure to UV light.

She suggested kids can play outdoors in the sunshine and eat foods fortified with this crucial nutrient to boost daily intake.   Almost 80 to 90 per cent of Pakistani children suffer from low vitamin D levels, experts said.    “Vitamin D has various roles in the body including modulation of cell growth, neuromuscular and immune function, and reduction of inflammation,” she said. She also highlighted many studies also have linked vitamin D deficiency to cardiovascular disease, cancers, gene expression, seasonal affective disorder, multiple sclerosis, autoimmune disorders and insulin resistance in adults. In children and adults symptoms of vitamin D deficiency include bone pain or tenderness, dental deformities, impaired growth, increased bone fractures, muscle cramps, short stature and skeletal deformities such as rickets, she said.

Due to the prevalence of vitamin D deficiency and insufficiency in children and teens, it’s important to determine the best time to test their vitamin D levels. Expert say vitamin D levels are checked if calcium status is low or if patients are experiencing bone malformation (rickets), bone weakness and softness or fractures that occur without real injury.

She said children who have limited sun exposure, darker skin tones, and excess body fat and are living at higher latitudes are at higher risk of vitamin D deficiency and may benefit from getting tested.

Taking regular supplements of vitamin D after consultation with physicians is also a good way to increase the level of vitamin D in body she said.