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Have you ever heard of Vitamin D Deficiency?

Author: Chiara Rambaldi

In Britain, the number of people hospitalised due to vitamin D deficiency rises every day. This deficiency is almost exclusive to Black Asian and Minority Ethnic (BAME) groups, and youths are the main target. However, do you know what Vitamin D deficiency is? Mohamed Mohamud, a 23-year-old student who originally comes from Somalia, asserts that he has never heard of this syndrome before being in the UK.

Specifically, the patients affected by this deficit remain largely unidentified because of the lack of media coverage. Yet, Mohamed is not surprised by this media shortage. He claims:

"Because Vitamin D deficiency is not affecting the people 'who count', then nobody cares about it. This is the world we live in today; if something does not have an impact on the political or economic system, then it is not worthy of mention for our leaders. For example, Coronavirus is so known and notorious nowadays because it has an impact on the world economy. But BAME people are not politically or economically outspoken, so who does feel concern about Vitamin D deficiency today apart from the directly affected?"

What is Vitamin D deficiency and why does it matter?

It is important to acknowledge that Vitamin D absorbs calcium from the gut which is required to maintain optimal bone health. If there is a lack of vitamin D in the body, then deficiencies result in rickets and osteocalcin which develop in soft bones, but also hypocalcaemia complications. Low calcium can also cause life-threatening seizures and heart failure. Since there is very little vitamin D in our daily diet due to the high percentage of complex carbs we absorb within the most eaten foods, our bodies rely on vitamin D synthesis in the skin triggered by exposure to ultraviolet rays in sunlight.

However, the UK's geographic location and weather conditions cause its UV deficient for the most part of the year. Unsurprisingly, nearly half of the UK population were vitamin D deficient in the National Diet and Nutritional Survey, but very few people knew about it. Within the UK citizens, BAME communities are most at risk, as darker skin produces far less vitamin D than lighter skin. Darker skinned people are designed to absorb the UV from the sun however, living in a climate like Britain, the melanin is deprived of sunlight.

Yet, given the proportion of BAME people in the UK, there is an urgent need to share information and awareness and to update the current policies and implement useful strategies.

The UK currently has vitamin D supplementation policies for risk groups for certain population categories. However, these policies are not enough to ensure BAME people a healthy well-being.

Therefore, it is natural to wonder, when will media coverage reflect the diversity of issues that affect people’s health in Britain? Hopefully, this is a first step.


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