What’s going wrong? How is Vitamin D Deficiency an epidemy?
According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), an epidemic indicates numbers beyond the expected, it’s really everywhere and is a public health crisis. And yet the vitamin D deficiency crisis is largely unacknowledged by the public as well as the Indian government. “The conventional wisdom in India has been that bone decay is not as widespread here as in western countries and it typically happens to senior citizens and post-menopausal women,” says Dr Sanjay Bhadada, additional professor of endocrinology at PGIMER, Chandigarh. But piecemeal studies have been hinting at rampant D deficiency. And there is now enough research on the ground to give a bird’s-eye view of the nation: at least 50 studies in the last 10 years showed acute D deficiency, from 91 per cent in Delhi to 87 per cent in Mumbai, 82 per cent in Tirupati to 78 per cent in Lucknow, averaging at 80 per cent across India.
At PGIMER, almost 50 per cent patients with no symptoms get diagnosed with vitamin D deficiency in the course of routine check-ups, while 90 per cent patients complaining of back pain, unexplained muscle soreness or even general fatigue are found to be low on it. “It’s a whole universe,” says Bhadada. “From 20-something students to pregnant women, mid-level professionals to schoolchildren, women over 50 to teenagers, senior citizens to even neonates-patients from every walk of life.”