Vitamin D Deficiency Raises Risk of Osteoporosis

Vitamin D Deficiency Raises Risk of Osteoporosis
Vitamin D Deficiency Raises Risk of Osteoporosis

Studies show that most young Iranian women have Vitamin D deficiency which poses great risk for osteoporosis.

Previous studies conducted in this field revealed that the prevalence of osteoporosis and osteopenia among Iranians aged 50 years or older is 22.2% and 59.9% in women and 11% and 50% in men, respectively. Among those under 50 years, 33% of women and 31.6% of men have reduced bone mass.

Adequate calcium and Vitamin D intake is important to maintain bone density and prevent brittleness, says Dr. Farjoud Shokouhi, physiotherapist and member of the Iranian Medical Supreme Council, reports IRNA.  

He pointed to the most critical age for bone formation, between the age of 11 and 17, and said it is important that schools, especially girls’ schools, pay more attention to students’ diet.

Osteoporosis, the disease that causes bones to become less dense and more prone to fractures, has been called “a pediatric disease with geriatric consequences,” because the bone mass attained in childhood and adolescence is an important determinant of lifelong skeletal health. Health habits in childhood can make, or literally break, their bones as they age. Osteopenia is a medical condition in which the protein and mineral content of bone tissue is reduced, but less severely than in osteoporosis.

The amount of bone tissue in the skeleton (known as bone mass) peaks by late twenties in most people. Up to 90% of peak bone mass is acquired by age 18 in girls and 20 in boys, and therefore the best time to “invest” in bone health is childhood.

Building strong bones by adopting healthy nutritional and lifestyle habits in childhood is important to help prevent osteoporosis and fractures later in life. To this end, enriched milk with Vitamin D and fortified supplementary snacks are planned to be distributed in schools.  

Calcium has been singled out as a major public health concern today because it is critically important to bone health, and Vitamin D is important for good bone health because it aids in the absorption and utilization of calcium. But only milk and some fruit juices are fortified with calcium and Vitamin D in Iran.

Shokouhi, referring to the protocol proposed by the Iran Physiotherapy Association, necessitated the importance of assessing spinal disorders and back problems, and setting up specific training in schools, especially for girls.

He pointed to the increasing use of mobile phones and Internet among the youth in conjunction with a sedentary lifestyle which poses serious threats to the spinal cord and bone development, furthering the risks of osteoporosis.

 Cervical Spine Stress

Research shows that the posture while talking into a cell phone increases the stress on the neck and can cause excessive wear and tear that may eventually require surgery to correct it. Doctors say that although the head weighs between 4.5 kg and 5.4 kg, “as we angle it down to look into a cell phone, the effective weight on the neck increases; at a 15 degree angle, it is about 12.2 kg rising to 27.2 kg at 60 degrees.  With smartphone users now spending an average of two to four hours a day with their heads dropped down, this results in 700 to 1,400 hours a year of excess stress on the cervical spine,” he said.

Iran has an osteoporosis network which aims to increase public awareness on the disease.

In a 2010 study applying the Health Belief Model for Osteoporosis Prevention among middle school girl students, 76% admitted to ingestion of less than 670 mg of calcium daily. After the intervention, 74% increased their intake to between 650 and 1300 mg of calcium. Furthermore, 50% of the girls had less than 20-30 minutes of physical activity three times a week earlier, and this increased to 89%.

Shokouhi stressed the importance of nutritious food such as milk and fermented milk products (yogurt, curd, buttermilk and cheese), fish, Vitamin D and magnesium in the diet. Exposure to sunlight especially for women and young girls as well as daily exercise is equally important in preventing osteoporosis.

In Iran, 1 in 4 women over age 50 experience osteoporotic fractures, 8 times more than in men.

He also pointed to medications such as corticosteroids, anti-epilepsy drugs, anti-cancerous medicines and diseases such as hyperthyroidism and diabetes which have consequences leading to osteoporosis.