Most medical labs in Egypt offered discounts and promotions for vitamin D analysis for women during the last two years. In addition, the medical concerned bodies, both private and public sectors in Egypt launched awareness campaigns on the importance of vitamin D analysis and the dangers of vitamin D deficiency.
Meanwhile, the National Council for Women (NCW) organized an awareness raising conference concerning the dangers of the deficiency of vitamin D.
Hence, Daily News Egypt dug into that topic, in an attempt to learn if that problem is a genuine critical health issue or mere propaganda to increase the medical laboratory profits countrywide.
DNE decided to dig further into this matter via an interview with several women who are working in the medical field, the transcript for which is below, lightly edited for clarity:
80% of women in Egypt, Middle East suffer from vitamin D deficiency: NCW
To determine the answer of the aforementioned question, we should first know, where Egyptian women stand from this problem.
For her part, Gamila Nasr, the representative of Africa at the world association of preventive cardiology and member of the NCW`s health committee, revealed that 80% of women in Egypt and the Middle East within the age group of 30 to 60 years-old, suffer from vitamin D deficiency.
She continued that despite the fact that Egypt is famous for its sunshine throughout the year, but there is a great percentage of women in Egypt who still suffer from vitamin D deficiency.
Her remarks came on the sidelines of the conference organized by the NCW in cooperation with a pharmaceutical company with the aim of raising the awareness of Egyptian women on vitamin D deficiency.
The problem affects men and children too, however, women are always the largest category that received media attention on that problem. Hence, why is that?
For her part, Shaimaa Aly, doctor of Rheumatism in Kasr Al-Ainy hospital, told DNE that women, especially between 30 and 60 years-old, is the category that suffers the most from vitamin D deficiency due to pregnancy and breastfeeding hormones as infants consume the mother’s stock of vitamin D.
Reasons behind great focus of medical concerned bodies on this problem
Aly said that the problem of vitamin D deficiency is not new, but what is new is the focus of all the labs and media in raising awareness of women regarding the problem.
She explained that this awakening in her opinion is due to that the high cost of vitamin D analysis, as its price ranges between EGP 900-1000, whereby no one regularly checks it. Hence, she further explained that laboratories launch several campaigns with a commercial purpose to increase their profits, in addition to raising awareness, but the commercial aim comes in first place.
Moreover, she noted that many hospitals that are not specialized in any related field relevant to vitamin D now offer vitamin D analysis at a cheaper price of EGP 200, in order to increase their profits.
Disagreeing with Aly, Nasr said that due to the lack of awareness, women do not pay attention to the symptoms of vitamin D deficiency, as many women are deficient vitamin D and do not know which causes complications, hence all the concerned medical bodies thought to raise the awareness of women about this problem, especially as the number of women who are deficient in vitamin D spiked in the last period.
Controversy about dangers of deficiency of vitamin D
Nasr explained that the symptoms, include constant stress, bone pain, hair loss, tiredness, and a bad mood.
Meanwhile, Aly stated that the vitamin D deficiency in the body may also cause obesity, body fat trauma, which will lead to increasing the chances of being infected by high blood pressure and high blood cholesterol levels.
In addition, vitamin D deficiency also contributes to increasing the rise of being prone to some types of cancer, especially breast and colorectal cancer.
On the other hand, Aly disagreed with Nasr, explaining that lack of vitamin D no longer correlates with cancer, noting that the laboratories propagate this idea to frighten women.
Concerning the reasons for being deficient in Vitamin D, Aly explained that the main reason for vitamin D deficiency is due to decreased access to the sun’s ultraviolet rays.
Furthermore, other reasons include living in a highly polluted area as pollution can absorb some of the sun’s rays, thereby reducing the body’s ability to produce vitamin D.
In addition to using large quantities of sunscreen as using enough sunscreen to block ultra violet (UV) rays may inhibit vitamin D absorption. But few people use enough sunscreen to fully block UV rays fully.
Finally, the pregnancy or breast-feeding as mentioned before and nutritional demands of an infant or foetus may lower vitamin D levels, particularly in women already at risk of vitamin D deficiency.
Ways to prevent new infants from suffering vitamin D deficiency
Lolita Ahmed, who is commonly known by Lolita, a nutrition expert, is famous for her lifestyle diet service through WhatsApp, revealed to DNE that throughout her experience in nutrition, she found that women and girls in Egypt mostly suffer from a deficiency of zinc and calcium in their blood.
She explained that the lack of zinc comes as a result of lack of vitamin C and lack of calcium, which comes due to lack of vitamin D.
The nutrition expert noted that the main source of vitamin D cannot be compensated with anything but the sun.
And yet, the body can get vitamin D, but with much smaller amounts through fatty fish, such as tuna and salmon.
She noted that the best Vitamin D absorption happens up till the age of six years old. Meanwhile, Lolita advises every woman to expose her child to the sun until the age of six years, in order to gain enough vitamin D in the period before 11:00 am or after 5:00 pm and to make them eat fresh vegetables and fruits that contain vitamin C.
Lolita assured that the treatment for women that suffer vitamin D deficiency, is usually decided upon the percentage of the deficiency. If it is very low, the patient should take a course of Vitamin D injections, and if it is mild, the patient should take vitamin D tablets.