New research published in the Journal of Epidemiology and Global Health discovered that over 70% of Lebanese pharmacy students had low vitamin D levels. The study also found that pharmacist counseling proved to be an effective intervention for increasing vitamin D knowledge and awareness.
Research continues to show a high prevalence of vitamin D deficiency worldwide despite increased trends in vitamin D supplementation. This leaves public health advocates, such as the team at the Vitamin D Council, constantly searching for solutions for this pandemic.
A recent study aimed to determine the prevalence of low vitamin D levels among pharmacy students and evaluate the impact of pharmacist counseling on increasing the knowledge of the importance of sun exposure and adequate vitamin D intake. Researchers measured the vitamin D levels of 160 Lebanese pharmacy students. They also assessed the students’ knowledge about the factors that affect vitamin D levels before and after pharmacist counseling. The questionnaire focused on recommended daily allowance, dietary sources, factors that affect vitamin D status and vitamin D metabolism. A score was assigned for each correct response.
A total of 115 pharmacy students (72%) had levels below 30 ng/ml (to convert ng/ml to nmol/l, multiple by 2.5), with an average vitamin D status of 16.8 ng/ml.
The vast majority of students (90.6%) went to three to five pharmacist led educational sessions per week, and 81.25% of the students stayed at the session for 30-50 minutes. Two months following the baseline assessment, the pharmacy students were reevaluated for their knowledge of vitamin D. The difference in the scores obtained before and after pharmacy counseling was significant for all areas: RDA and dietary sources, diseases that affect vitamin D, drugs that affect vitamin D and factors that affect vitamin D synthesis in the skin.
Over 90% of the vitamin D deficient students (as defined by levels < 20 ng/ml) began supplementation after the counseling session.
The results of the study led the researchers to ask a valuable question,
“If healthy adults, living in a country with abundant sunshine, specializing in the pharmacy field have this lack of knowledge about vitamin D deficiency, what can we say about the situation among the Lebanese community over-all?”
They continued to state,
“There is an urgent need for public health education about the vital role of vitamin D to minimize the complications of its deficiency…Pharmacists have the capacity to use their unique perspective concerning drug therapy and collaborate in a multidisciplinary approach to monitor and optimize vitamin D supplementation in all patients, especially those who are at high risk.”
Tovey, A. & Cannell, JJ. Research finds high prevalence of vitamin D deficiency among pharmacy students. The Vitamin D Council Blog & Newsletter, 2016.