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Active outdoor lifestyle may reduce vitamin D deficiency in Saudi Arabia

July 25, 2012

A new study suggests that vitamin D deficiency among Saudi Arabian children and adolescents can be positively influenced by increased sun exposure and physical activity as well as vitamin D supplementation.

To determine the prevalence of vitamin D deficiency and its association with behavioral factors like physical activity and exposure to sunlight, the cross-sectional study examined levels of physical activity and sun exposure as well as blood calcium and 25-(OH) vitamin D concentrations in 331 healthy Saudi children aged 6–17 (1). The study results showed that all children were vitamin D deficient (below 20 ng/ml). Among those who had the same level of sun exposure, those who were physically more active had higher levels of vita-min D, though levels remained deficient.

The researchers concluded that vitamin D deficiency is common among Saudi children and adolescents, and is influenced by both sun exposure and physical activity. The promotion of an active outdoor lifestyle among Saudi children in both homes and schools may counteract the vitamin D deficiency epidemic in this vulnerab-le population. The scientists recommend vitamin D supplementation for all groups, including those with the highest sun exposure and physical activity. The results should help in raising awareness as well as sugges-ting strategies to combat vitamin D deficiency in Saudi Arabia, thereby reducing the instances of various chronic diseases associated with vitamin D deficiency.

Saudis usually limit the time they spend outdoors during the day. In the summer months, for example, parents do not allow their children to engage in outdoor activities during the day. Women in particular receive little or no exposure to sunlight, since they cover their entire bodies with dark veils for cultural and religious reasons.

References

  1. Al-Othman A. et al. Effect of physical activity and sun exposure on vitamin D status of Saudi children and adolescents. BMC Pediatrics. 2012; 12:92.