Al Rawabi poll: Almost half of UAE residents do not know any of the symptoms of a Vitamin D deficiency while 84% do not know how to boost levels

August 27, 2014 11:31 am

According to a new Super Family Health Survey commissioned by Al Rawabi Dairy, 90% of UAE residents are concerned about being deficient in Vitamin D, but a mere 12% can actually recognise all the symptoms. This follows recent findings announced at the third international conference on Vitamin D deficiency that more than three quarters of UAE residents are Vitamin D deficient.

The Super Family Health Survey conducted to mark the launch of Al Rawabi’s new fortified milk product Super Milk, found that four in five have no idea about how to boost the body’s levels of the vitamin.

Super Milk, Al Rawabi’s latest product, is the country’s first ever pure fresh cow’s milk product that is fortified with a range of essential vitamins, minerals and nutrients (A, D, E, calcium and folic acid), specifically formulated to help address key UAE health concerns, Vitamin D deficiency among them.

The survey further revealed that one in three respondents have no idea of the health implications of a Vitamin D deficiency, while nearly half admit to not knowing how long it takes before a deficiency seriously impacts health and a similar number are not clear on the time it takes to boost levels of the vitamin in the body.

Respondents were also asked at what age a deficiency of the vitamin has the most adverse effects on health, with 15% thinking that it was most damaging for children under 12, almost a quarter who answered think it impacts health at every age and 28% admitted to being clueless as to what age a deficiency has the most adverse effects. Another significant finding of the Super Family Health Survey was that of all parents surveyed, a whopping one in three was not sure if their children were Vitamin D deficient.

Vitamin D is essential for the effective working of a whole host of body functions – immune system, muscle function, blood circulation and cardiovascular function, the respiratory system, even brain development and maintaining healthy bone structure. A deficiency of the vitamin can lead to bone metabolism disorders, rickets in children, cancer, cardiovascular disease, diabetes and even depression as well as other major diseases.

Dr. Ahmed El Tigani, General Manager of Al Rawabi explained: “Vitamin D is often known as the sunshine vitamin as our body produces it in response to sunlight, however it can also be included in the diet, naturally occurring in some fish and egg yolk as well as in fortified functional dairy and grain products. A 100ml glass of Al Rawabi Super Milk contains enough vitamin D to meet an adult’s required daily intake and can help counteract the effects of a deficiency of the vitamin. In this regard, Super Milk is three times as powerful as standard milk.

“This survey has confirmed that there is indeed a lack of awareness about the harmful effects of Vitamin D deficiency and therefore much needs to be done to educate the public in this regard,” said Dr. Tigani.

“We have taken it upon ourselves to support the government in its efforts to address this concern by investing in extensive research and development to bring more functional foods like Al Rawabi Super Milk to the market.”

Dr. Dana Al-Hamwi, GP and Clinical Dietician, currently working with Al Rawabi’s Super Milk campaign to help families eat healthily added: “The importance of Vitamin D to the overall good health of our bodies, especially our bones, cannot be underestimated. And there is an obvious need for people to be educated around this health issue, as Al Rawabi’s survey shows.

“The uniqueness of this vitamin is that the body can produce it on its own when exposed to sunlight. It is therefore quite a paradox that our region, which experiences some of the highest levels of sunlight in the world, should have such a large portion of the population showing a potential deficiency in Vitamin D. This health issue can be tackled by proper education and awareness that there are in fact a number of dietary alternatives available, like fortified milk Al Rawabi Super Milk, which can help boost Vitamin D levels.”

According to Dr. Al-Hamwi, the risk of suffering from Vitamin D deficiency increases in those over the age of 50, breastfed infants, those with limited sun exposure, those with dark skin, people who are overweight or obese, lactose intolerant or who suffer from chronic diseases such as celiac disease and Crohn’s disease.

“Vitamin D deficiency is a silent epidemic,” Dr Al-Hamwi commented. “There are no clear symptoms, especially in the beginning, however most Vitamin D deficient people will complain of suffering from fatigue, lack of energy, tiredness, bone pain, muscle weakness, and depression. The only way to confirm the deficiency is through a blood test.”

Whilst 90% of Vitamin D is normally obtained from direct sun exposure, living in the UAE and GCC means this is not always practical due to length of time spent in doors and clothing choices. However, Dr. Al-Hamwi confirms there are other ways to increase Vitamin D levels without directly subjecting yourself to sunlight.

“By designing our dietary program to include foods fortified with Vitamin D such as fortified milk, fortified juices and fortified cereals, and maintaining a healthy diet consisting of a sensible amount of each food groups, families and individuals can ensure they manage their Vitamin D levels effectively. In addition, it’s advised to take dietary supplements containing Vitamin D if a specialist has diagnosed you with Vitamin D deficiency.”

Aside from Vitamin D, Al Rawabi Super Milk was conceived after an Dhs2 million investment in product research and development by Al Rawabi to also help tackle other health issues like hypertension (high blood pressure), diabetes, obesity, cardiovascular issues and low immune systems.

Super Milk is fresh milk that is suitable for all ages, has full cream and low fat variants and comes in three sizes.

It includes the following in one 100ml serving:

· 120% of RDA (recommended daily allowance) of Vitamin D, to aid calcium absorption, for healthy muscles, heart, lungs and brain as well as to help the body fight infection

· 15% of RDA of calcium, to strengthen bones and teeth as well as to benefit muscles, the nervous system and blood

· 15% of RDA of Vitamin B12 (naturally occurring in milk), to form healthy blood and help with the normal functioning of the brain and nervous system

· 15% of RDA of Vitamin A, to maintain the immune system and vision

· 15% of RDA of Vitamin E, an antioxidant that helps prevent chronic diseases associated with free radicals such as cancer and cardiovascular as well as help boost the immune system

· 15% of RDA of Folic Acid, to produce healthy red blood cells and prevent anemia, as well as contribute to a healthy pregnancy.