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Veiled women face bigger Vitamin D deficiency risk

MANAMA, March 28, 2015

Women who wear traditional Islamic dress in the region should expose themselves to sunlight at least twice a week for health reasons, mainly to tackle Vitamin D deficiency issues, according to a health expert.

Jordanian endocrinologist Dr Jihad Haddad told the Gulf Daily News, our sister publication, that women who wear a niqab (full face veil) or hijab (headscarf) are at particular risk of Vitamin D deficiency 'caused by a lack of sunlight '“ and must make an effort to uncover their arms and legs regularly.

"Without a doubt absorption of Vitamin D, which is known as the 'sunshine vitamin', can be increased by exposure to the sun," he said.

"Data from studies conducted in the region show that the type of dress worn, including veils, play a major role in the concentration of Vitamin D in the body," he stated.

A study in Lebanon showed that 61.8 per cent of veiled women had low levels of Vitamin D compared with just 23.5 per cent of non-veiled women, Dr Haddad said.

"Meanwhile in Jordan, 83.35 per cent of women who wear the niqab were found to suffer from Vitamin D deficiency during the summer and 81.85  per cent during the winter while for those wearing a hijab, 54.8 per cent were deficient during the summer and 77.6 per cent during the winter," he noted.

'In practice this doesn't mean that veiled women should change their style of dress, but they should find the time 'at least two to three times a week '“ to expose their arms and legs to the sun,' said the doctor, who was speaking on the sidelines of a seminar about the 'sunshine vitamin' organised by Gulf Pharmacy at the Sheraton Hotel, Bahrain.

'This is not just limited to women wearing a niqab or hijab, women all over the world face this issue as they tend to avoid the sun or don't have time for it. Even those who expose their body to the sun or wear bathing costumes use sun screen lotions, which reduces the benefits,' he added.

Although few studies on Vitamin D deficiency in Bahrain have been completed, Dr Haddad was confident that data from other countries in the region could be extrapolated.

According to him , the studies in Saudi Arabia and the UAE have shown that 70 to 80 per cent of the population are low in Vitamin D.

"These studies have also revealed that subjects with a normal concentration of Vitamin D can reduce their risk of breast cancer by 69 per cent in comparison to those with a low concentration. The vitamin can really affect the growth of cancer cells in the body and this is not limited to breast cancer but also to colon and prostate cancer," he explained.

The expert highlighted a number of other new studies that suggest high levels of Vitamin D may improve life expectancy and can help ward off diabetes, gum disease and multiple sclerosis.

He further warned that low amounts of Vitamin D in children could cause alarming consequences in later life.

'The new generation is less exposed to the sun as they spend a lot of time playing on their computers,' said Dr Haddad.

'Body weight and Vitamin D are also linked and in obese subjects, the vitamin can accumulate in fat tissues where the body is unable to use it.'

Studies indicated that 49 per cent of severely obese, 34 per cent of obese and 29 per cent of overweight children are Vitamin D deficient, 'hence it is important that they are encouraged to play outside and exercise enough and schools must highlight this,' he added.-TradeArabia News Service




Tags: UAE | Gulf | Vitamin D |

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