Thursday 6 December 2018

Make “D” while the Sun shines

The common saying – “Make hay while the sun shines” is now applicable for Vitamin D also. Vit.D is an essential nutrient which performs a wide variety of vital functions in our body. Historically (I think from the time it was discovered that human skin can make Vit.D from sun rays), it has been believed that Indians have been able to synthesize adequate amounts of Vit.D but recent researches have proved this to be a disbelief. Ideally, thirty minutes of exposure of the skin over the arms and face to sunlight, without the application of sunscreen, preferably between 10 am to 2 pm (as maximum ultraviolet B rays are transmitted during this time) daily is adequate to avoid Vit. D deficiency.

India, located between 8.4 and 37.61 N latitude, is a vast tropical and warm country. Most of the Indian regions receive ample amount of sunlight throughout the year. Also being a agricultural and a rural country, most of the people spend time outdoors in the sun, so the time exposed to the sunlight is quite high.  Earlier, Vit.D deficiency was considered to be disease of west, since the amount of exposure to sunlight among the western countries is very less. Surprisingly, recent researches have shown that there has been an increase in the incidence of Vit.D deficiency among Indians as well.

There may be various reasons for us developing this deficiency in spite of the widespread availability of sunlight in our country.:

  • Darker skin pigmentation and the changes which have accompanied India’s modernization, including increased hours spent working indoors and pollution, limit sun exposure for many.
  • Changing food fads and food habits contribute to low dietary calcium and Vit. D intake;
  • High fibre diet containing phosphorus and phytates which can deplete Vit. D stores and increase calcium requirement;
  • Genetic factors like having increased 25(OH)D-24-hydroxylase which degrades 25(OH)D to inactive metabolites;
  • It has been shown that increment in serum 25(OH)D in response to treatment depends on the heritability of Vit. D binding protein;
  • Increased pollution may also hamper the synthesis of Vit. D in the skin;
  • Repeated, unspaced and unplanned pregnancies in already deficient patients may aggravate Vit. D deficiency in both the mother and the foetus.     

However, in our scenario, our dietary habits are also to be blamed. Predominantly vegetarian, we do not have much choice as far as Vit.D is concerned; the vitamin is primarily present in non-vegetarian foods. Also till date, no focus has been shifted by the policy makers regarding the fortification of common foods with Vit.D.

Earlier Vit.D deficiency was only thought to be present in children of lower socioeconomic status but now the picture seems to be changing. The nutrient deficiency is now being commonly found in otherwise healthy children and adults. Deficiency of Vit.D at such a small age may hamper appropriate growth and development since childhood resulting in a clinical condition termed as rickets whereas in adults it may lead to an early onset of osteoporosis. However, the vitamin now has been shown to play a variety of roles ranging from an antioxidant to that being a anti-cancer nutrient.

Given our lifestyle, I believe almost all of us would be Vit.D deficient. There are no specific symptoms of Vit.D deficiency. It may start of as vague unexplainable joint pains in some while in others it could be skin rashes. None of us are adequately exposed to sun, nor does our diet contains foods that may help to improve the deficiency. The only way we can fight this deficiency is by oral supplementation in the form of sachets or capsules.

It's been a high time now to open our eyes to a problem which was probably long standing but we recognized it quite late. According to a estimate by WHO, approximately one billion people in world have Vit.D deficiency.

Until fairly recently, Vit. D deficiency in children has been observed in essentially every country in the world. It affects a large proportion of population, irrespective of age and sex. The reason for delay in recognition is perhaps Vit. D is the most underrated nutrient in the world of nutrition probably because it’s “free”. But the truth is, unawareness as most people don’t know the real story of Vit. D and health.

Saturday 31 March 2018

A Mango a day......

Summers are here and at peak – a perfect season for enjoying mangoes. I am sure you all must be fond of mangoes, the king of fruits and our national fruit. In our sacred Upanishads, mangoes have been regarded as the “Food of Gods”. Mangoes are grown almost all over India and remain the prime delicacy of this hot season. 

Mangoes are being cultivated in India since times immemorial. This tropical fruit finds its mention in certain poetries of Kalidas. Amir Khusro, the great urdu poet commented “Aam meethe hone chahiye aur khoob saare hone chahiye”. So mangoes are being loved since ages. Also, the fruit is available in more than 100 varieties, with each variety having its unique and characteristic flavour.
Mangoes are not only great in taste but also they are great nutritionally. In fact this king of fruits is a package of several nutrients.

Mangoes offer a host of nutritional benefits and thus the old age saying “An apple a day keeps the doctor away” can well be used for mangoes also. The fruit is so full of goodness that it serves as a perfect breakfast, snack and dessert for this hot season.

100 gm of mangoes provides approximately 60-70 kcals, is high in sugar, low in fats and proteins.
Mangoes are a very rich source of prebiotic fiber. Probiotics are non functional food ingredients which promote the growth of bacteria beneficial for the intestines. In this way, the king offers protection against colon cancer and intestinal diseases.

The fruit is very rich in poly-phenolic flavonoid compounds which provide protection against various types of cancer.

Talking of vitamins, mangoes are a very rich source of beta-carotene which is a precursor of Vitamin A. 100 gm of the fresh fruit provides approximately 25%  of the recommended daily levels of Vitamin A. The vitamin is required by the human body for the maintenance for healthy skin and eyes and most importantly for normal vision.

Another important vitamin that this fruit provides in ample is Vitamin C. Vitamin C is an anti-oxidant which helps the body to fight against infection as well as delay aging by removing the free toxic radicals from the body. These antioxidant properties are further enhanced by the presence of Vitamin E, which itself is an antioxidant.

With regards to minerals, mangoes present the ideal combination. Its a low sodium and a high potassium fruit. So this is the good news for people with high blood pressure; however, patients with kidney diseases need to avoid mangoes.

The peel of mangoes is rich in insoluble fibre whereby making it helpful for our gastrointestinal tract.
However, the goodness of mangoes is not meant for diabetics. However, the fruit is an incredible source of vitamins and minerals, its high glycemic index (attributed to the high sugar content of the fruit) makes it unsuitable for people with diabetes. The response of blood sugar to the sugar of the fruit is very high so its advisable for diabetics to consume the fruit in moderate quantity.

Almost every part of the fruit is used for edible purposes. In some northern parts of the country, even the peel is consumed. Raw mangoes are used for making beverage commonly known as “Panna” and for making pickles. Ripe mangoes may be eaten raw and fresh and are also used for making desserts and puddings, the most famous being “Aamras”.

So for knowing about the goodness of mangoes, get a dozen of them and enjoy them......if nothing else, they are superb in taste at least!!!!!!