D for daylight: Why Vitamin D deficiency is a serious issue

by | August 17, 2022

Make sure to get your daily dose of sun, or if that is not sufficient, through food and nutritional supplements.

Vitamin D is essential for a healthy, functioning body. Without sufficient levels of Vitamin D, our bones, immune systems and other organs face a host of problems. Let’s take a look at the importance of Vitamin D, and how we can ensure that we get enough of it.

Most people are aware of the crucial role Vitamin D plays in the regulation of bone health and calcium absorption. Vitamin D deficiency can lead to a condition called osteomalacia, characterised by weakened bones which break more easily. Therefore, adequate Vitamin D levels are vital for strong bones as well as optimal musculoskeletal function.

The role of Vitamin D does not end with our bones. More recent research has shown that Vitamin D has a wide variety of effects on regulation of the immune system, the endocrine system, kidney and even muscle function. During the pandemic, there was a study which suggested that Vitamin D deficiency may be associated with a higher risk of severe COVID-19. Vitamin D deficiency is also linked to health conditions like heart disease, diabetes, immune disorders and cancers.

The good news is that we have all the tools we need to ensure sufficient levels of Vitamin D in our bodies. The vitamin is produced in the skin in response to exposure to sunlight. In cases where there is insufficient sunlight, dietary supplementation of Vitamin D through food or nutritional supplements can help us hit our recommended daily allowances of the vitamin.

Despite Singapore’s tropical climate and ample sunlight, Vitamin D deficiency is common. The National Health Survey in 2010 reported that 40 percent of Singaporeans are Vitamin D deficient. Another local study in 2016 reported that 42 percent of participants were Vitamin D deficient. More tellingly, a 2019 local study placed the prevalence of Vitamin D deficiency amongst indoor workers at 32.9 percent. A more recent local study in 2021 reported that 1/3 of middle-aged Singaporean women are Vitamin D deficient. It seems like our indoor, deskbound lifestyles are contributing to our nation’s Vitamin D deficiency.

Who is more prone to vitamin D deficiency? Individuals with increased skin pigmentation or more melanin in their skin are at increased risk because more sunlight exposure is required to get sufficient Vitamin D. Due to the vitamin’s fat solubility, obesity or increased body fat may also be a risk factor as the vitamin is stored in adipose/fat tissue. Individuals who work indoors, such as office workers, may also be at increased risk.

While severe Vitamin D deficiency can cause a condition called rickets in children, most adults with this deficiency do not have any major symptoms, although some individuals may experience non-specific symptoms like fatigue, muscle weakness, muscle or bone aches and low mood. Vitamin D deficiency is diagnosed with a blood test.

You can reduce your risk of Vitamin D deficiency by trying to get enough daily sunlight exposure. Ten to 15 minutes of sunlight exposure to the hands, face and arms is the minimum recommendation. If you are still deficient despite this, or if your levels of Vitamin D are extremely low, you may need supplementation. This can come in the form of either oral medication or Vitamin D injections. Some patients report feeling better e.g. less fatigue/aches and better mood after their Vitamin D levels are restored to normal.

Speak to your doctor if you are concerned that you may be suffering from Vitamin D deficiency.


** This article was written by Dr Grace Huang, who has a keen interest in women’s health and wellness medicine. She is currently practising at DTAP Robertson branch.


(** PHOTO CREDIT: Pixabay/Arek Socha)



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