Vitamin D deficiency and sun avoidance among university students at Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates

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This study offers evidence that vitamin D deficiency could be a major public health burden among young Emirati adults, mostly because of sun deprivation in a sun-blessed country. This study included a random sample of 138 females and 70 males tested for serum 25-hydroxyvitamin D [25(OH)D] status. To further evaluate the predictors of vitamin D status in this population, the study examined diet, obesity and sun exposure. In summer, the mean serum 25(OH)D concentration for females was 20.9 ± 14.9 nmol/L, whereas that for males was 27.3 ± 15.7 nmol/L. Females scored significantly higher than males on the sun avoidance inventory (SAI), indicating that females avoid sun exposure to a greater extent than males, possibly explaining the lower vitamin D status. A significant negative correlation also existed between SAI and vitamin D status (Pearson's r = -0.33; p < 0.01), but no significant association was evident between vitamin D status and body mass index (Pearson's r = 0.03; p = 0.33) or low dietary intake of vitamin D-fortified foods (Pearson's r = 0.08; p = 0.13). The mean serum 25(OH)D concentration for females tested in winter was 31.3 ± 12.3 nmol/L while in the summer, it was 20.9 ± 14.9 nmol/L. This difference was statistically significant, suggesting that seasonal variation plays an important role in vitamin D status in the United Arab Emirates. Fortification of foods and drinks with vitamin D, supplementation and sensible sun exposure are important steps toward minimizing vitamin D deficiency. © 2011 Landes Bioscience.

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