Vitamin D deficiency
is one of the most common health issues faced by the urban population today. Blame it on our lifestyle, the ‘sunshine vitamin
‘, aptly named, requires our body to soak in some sunshine to absorb its benefits. Since the body doesn’t produce Vitamin D, it needs to be absorbed through food or sunshine. But our hectic work life makes us spend most of our time indoors, within the walls of the office. According to a study done by researchers at the University of Alberta, Canada, shift workers, healthcare workers and indoor workers in particular are at high risk of vitamin D deficiency.
Dr. Sebastian Straube, the lead author said, “Our results suggest that occupation is a major factor that may contribute to suboptimal vitamin D levels. Regular screening of vitamin D levels in at-risk groups should be considered for future clinical practice guidelines and public health initiatives. Workplace wellness programs could include education about the importance of adequate vitamin D levels. This could help prevent adverse health outcomes linked to vitamin D deficiency, such as metabolic disorders, psychiatric and cardiovascular disorders, and cancer.”
The researchers found that prevalence of vitamin D deficiency was highest among shift workers (80% of individuals), followed by indoor workers (77%) and healthcare students (72%). Among healthcare workers, rates of vitamin D deficiency varied depending on whether they were students, medical residents (65%), practicing physicians (46%), nurses (43%) or other healthcare professionals (43%).
Dr. Straube said, “Vitamin D production by the body is reliant on sunshine and UV exposure so any activity that reduces exposure tends to reduce vitamin D levels. Sunlight deprivation in young medical professionals, who may have particularly long working hours, and other indoor workers, puts them at higher risk of both vitamin D insufficiency and deficiency.”
A high percentage of indoor workers (91%) were also found to have insufficient vitamin D, which means that their levels of vitamin D weren’t necessarily as low as those found in vitamin D deficient individuals, but lower than levels recommended for health. By comparison, 48% of outdoor workers had vitamin D deficiency, while 75% had vitamin D insufficiency.
The authors caution that heterogeneity between studies may make conclusions derived from their combined data less reliable.