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Solar Powered: Key Facts about Vitamin D for the Filipino | image © jcomp, Freepik
Solar Powered: Key Facts about Vitamin D | image © jcomp, Freepik

It is well-known that the most anticipated part of the Filipino year is the so-called “ber” months. Not only is it a sign of the coming Christmas season, but it also means the end of the heavy typhoon period that stretches for the middle of the year. We eagerly hope for clearer skies and drier weather to get back that sweet, sweet Vitamin D—or do we? After the sweltering heat brought upon us this summer, do we still want to see the sun? Let’s look into the “sunshine” vitamin and why is it important for our bodies.

In this article:

  1. What is Vitamin D?

  2. Where can you get Vitamin D?

  3. How much Vitamin D do you need?

    • Vitamin D insufficiency among Filipino Youth
  4. Things to Think About…

What is Vitamin D?

According to the National Institutes of Health (NIH), Vitamin D, or the “sunshine vitamin”, is needed for the body to absorb calcium, a primary building block for strong bones. It also assists in muscle movement and nerve health so signals can sent between your brain and your body. Vitamin D also plays an essential part in the immune system that fights off any invading bacteria and viruses that will cause our bodies harm.

Where can you get Vitamin D?

Health Direct, an Australian resource for health, says that the main source of Vitamin D comes from the skin being exposed to ultraviolet (UV) radiation from the sun. Vitamin D can also be found in food, but it is only in small amounts. So, it is important to track how much sunlight we are getting throughout the day.
You can get sufficient Vitamin D just by doing a quick visit at the park | Solar Powered: Key Facts about Vitamin D for the Filipino | image © pch.vector, Freepik
You can get sufficient Vitamin D just by doing a quick visit at the park | Solar Powered: Key Facts about Vitamin D for the Filipino | image © pch.vector, Freepik

How much vitamin D do you need?

Most people meet their vitamin D needs naturally through exposure to sunlight. However, UV radiation also causes cancer. So, experts recommend approximately 5 to 30 minutes of sun exposure, between 10:00 AM to 4:00 PM to the bare face, arms, hands, and legs without sunscreen, either daily or at least twice a week to prompt sufficiet Vitamin D synthesis. For anything outside of that time, duration, and frequency, health organizations urge protective measures to reduce the risk of skin cancer. This includes the use of sunscreens with at least an SPF of 8 (NIH, n.d.).

Vitamin D insufficiency among Filipino youth

Vitamin D Deficiency poster by the Philippine Information Agency (PIA) | Solar Powered: Key Facts about Vitamin D for the Filipino | image © PIA, 2021
Vitamin D Deficiency poster by the Philippine Information Agency (PIA) | Solar Powered: Key Facts about Vitamin D | image © PIA, 2021
In our country, recent research points to a concerning number of Filipino kids who are not getting enough time under the sun.
The Philippine Information Agency (PIA) published an article in 2021 that reveals data indicating that 1 in 10 Filipino kids lack the recommended amount of Vitamin D. The 2018 Expanded National Nutrition Survey (ENNS) by the Department of Science and Technology’s Food and Nuntrition Research Institute (DOST-FNRI) found that a higher proportion of Vitamin D insufficiency is observed in girls (6 in 10) than boys (4 in 10), aged 6 to 12 years old. In addition, a higher percentage of children in urban areas (59%) are vitamin D insufficient compared to kids in rural areas (45.4%). Across the country, it is reported that around 4 to 5 in 10 Filipino children, aged 6 to 12 years old are Vitamin D insufficient.
It would seem that even in a worldwide scale, there have been reports of vitamin D deficiency among kids from countries like the USA, China, New Zealand, and in Africa (Broño, 2021). Because of this, everyone is being encouraged by health professionals to take advantage of sunlight as a free and the most practical source of Vitamin D. Enough time under the sun daily can readily provide the amount of Vitamin D our body needs day to day. “Pinggang Pinoy”, a guide for healthy food portioning by food group and by age group from DOST-FNRI, also recommends “Grow” foods like milk, eggs, and fish that can help supplement the Vitamin D we get from the sun.

Things to Think About…

"Pinggang Pinoy" | Solar Powered: Key Facts about Vitamin D for the Filipino | image © DOST-FNRI, 2016
“Pinggang Pinoy” | Solar Powered: Key Facts about Vitamin D | image © DOST-FNRI, 2016
As we are noticeably becoming used to living an urban lifestyle, being sheltered under the shade and air-conditioned rooms seems to be the norm now. This can be understood as one of the causes of Vitamin D insufficiencies in our population.
Admittedly, such a lifestyle provides a unique convenience to us because it allows us to do more things comfortably indoors. However, let us not forget that this way of living also has its own set of risks especially in relation to health. Vitamin D insufficiency is only one of them. Urban life is also frequently related to unhealthy habits like lack of exercise, and eating processed food or fast food. We can still enjoy these perks and indulgences, but not at the expense of our basic health needs.

References:

Bobroff, Linda B., and Valentín-Oquendo, Isabel. 2022. “Facts About Vitamin D.” University of Florida IFAS Extension. https://edis.ifas.ufl.edu/publication/FY207
Broño, Lucia. “1 in 10 Pinoy Kids Lacks ‘Sunshine Vitamin’.” Philippine Information Agency. August 18, 2021. https://pia.gov.ph/features/2021/08/18/1-in-10-pinoy-kids-lacks-sunshine-vitamin
Dy-Zulueta, Dolly. “Is Vitamin D Worth The Hype? Studies, Experts Weigh In.” Philippine Star, PhilStar Global. July 18, 2023. https://www.philstar.com/lifestyle/health-and-family/2023/07/18/2274116/vitamin-d-worth-hype-studies-experts-weigh-in
Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health. n.d. “Vitamin D.” Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, The Nutrition Source. Accessed September 4, 2023. https://www.hsph.harvard.edu/nutritionsource/vitamin-d/
National Institutes of Health. n.d. “Vitamin D.” NIH National Institutes of Health, NIH National Institutes of Health. Accessed September 4, 2023. https://ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/VitaminD-Consumer/
Health Direct. n.d. “Vitamin D and Your Health.” HealthDirect, HealthDirect.gov.au. Accessed September 4, 2023. https://www.healthdirect.gov.au/vitamin-d-and-your-health

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