New research out of Oman reports that vitamin D deficiency is very common in Omanis.
The country of Oman sits at 21 degrees north of the equator. Its relatively close proximity to the equator makes it possible for people to produce vitamin D from sun exposure year-round. This is in contrast to countries that are further from the equator, where it’s impossible to make vitamin D during the winter due to poor UVB intensity.
Despite this advantage, it is often reported that vitamin D levels are low in the Middle East, likely due to heavy clothing use and other lifestyle factors.
In this present study, the researchers measured vitamin D levels in 206 healthy Omani volunteers in Muscat, Oman, aged 18-55.
They found that most all of the participants were lacking in vitamin D. The mean vitamin D level was 13.1 ng/ml, with levels being slightly higher in men than women. Thirty-nine percent of the participants had levels less than 10 ng/ml (severe deficiency), 87.5% had levels less than 20 ng/ml (deficiency) and 98.5% had levels less than 30 ng/ml.
The researchers speculated that the low vitamin D levels were due to sun and skin exposure avoidance, lack of supplementation and lack of dietary vitamin D. They also noted that even though no veiled women were included in the study, almost all of the women dressed in clothing that only exposed the face to the sun.
“Ironically, the mean serum 25(OH)D values of this study population of Omanis were lower than values reported for the populations domiciled in upper latitudes,” the researchers stated. They mentioned that this could be explained by the use of heavy clothing. “The dress habits of populations in more northerly latitudes allow more skin exposure to sunlight than those of Omanis.”
The researchers recommended that vitamin D deficiency be combated on a population wide scale with a combination of better sun exposure habits, more fortified food and better supplementation habits.