How did Indians get deficient in Vitamin D?- The New Indian Express

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Express News Service

BENGALURU:  A friend of mine felt uneasy recently and was rushed to the doctor. Cards were swiped, checkups were conducted, and tests were run. Machines began to beep and monitors spat out neon-green numbers. Finally, it was found that my friend was deficient in Vitamin D. Apart from a few medicines, he was asked to make sure he stepped out into the sun for at least a few minutes every day. It seemed like a rather strange recommendation – something you’d say to a lethargic polar bear. 

My friend did not appreciate my analogy, but I did some research and found reports suggesting that about 80 per cent of Indians suffer from Vitamin D deficiency. Apparently, Vitamin D is called the Sunshine Vitamin – because the sun is one of the best, natural sources. But years of staying indoors have altered our Vitamin D levels, and the pandemic has only taken matters from the frying pan to the sun.

This set me on a path to learn more about Vitamin D and its uses. First off, as a Commerce student, I am glad vitamins were simply named A, B, C, and D. Even a toddler could understand and remember that. Usually, people are left struggling with scientific terms such as Dihydrogen Monoxide and Lysergic acid diethylamide. I also learned that after naming vitamins from A to E, scientists directly jumped to Vitamin K’. Perhaps, like Karan Johar and Ekta Kapoor, they believe in the letter K – who knows? Some secrets of the world are permanently lost on Commerce students!  

Our ancestors used to worship the Sun and even did ‘Sun Salutations’. But we are able to manage a mere ‘Sun What’s Up?’, thanks to the rigours of modern, urban life. Swiggy and Zomato deliver our food, cabs arrive at our doorstep, and our office chairs have wheels under them too! Honestly, urban Indians have no reason to step out of their homes. Especially in cities like Bengaluru – where you can get anything and everything delivered (except an IPL trophy, of course!).  

India’s Vitamin D deficiency is ironic because as children, we couldn’t get enough of the sun. We would play under the hot sun for as long as we could, and our parents employed covert strategies to get us back home. Level 1 was to scream our names out from the balcony. Level 2 was to send a sibling to drag us home. Level 3 was Dad or Mom themselves coming to the ground, accompanied by a stick, or more dangerously – the Indian Dad Frown! Finally, after much struggle, we dragged ourselves home and sulked till dinner was served. 

But we are the first generation of Indians to work at night. The setting of the sun does not mean much to us, as night shifts have altered our body clocks. Our circadian rhythms have gone awry – like a drunk tabla player trying to keep up with Dr M Balamuralikrishna. But do not lose heart, dear reader! Through my column, I have always strived to better the world in tiny, minuscule ways.

The next time your boss makes you work at night, here’s an interesting excuse for you. Tell them you’re Vitamin D deficient and have been advised to take immediate action. Replace the ‘D’ of deadlines with the joys of Vitamin D. And then, like my second favourite animal – the buffalo – sit in your balcony and soak in the sun. Avoid the traffic, and replace global warming with some hyperlocal warming. 

(The writers’ views are their own)

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