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Why Vitamin D deficiency is on the rise in Singapore

Jasmine Alimin
Jasmine Alimin • 6 min read
Why Vitamin D deficiency is on the rise in Singapore
Talking point: We reveal why Singapore residents are increasingly suffering from vitamin D deficiency
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Everyone knows the value of vitamins C and E to help boost the body’s immunity and speed up healing, but many are not aware of the importance of vitamin D.

Also known as the “sunshine vitamin” — because you get it from being exposed to the sun — vitamin D is an essential ingredient in the fight against brittle teeth and bones, muscle degradation and hair loss, says Leonica Kei, trichologist and founder of Leonica K Trichology. “Vitamin D is important to keep bones healthy by increasing the intestinal absorption of dietary calcium, which is one of the main building blocks of bone. Hence, it helps regulate the amount of calcium and phosphate in the body.

Together, these nutrients are needed to keep bones, teeth, nerves and muscles healthy. Emerging evidence also shows that vitamin D is critical for one’s immune function,” says Dr Ian Tan, a medical doctor at IDS Clinic.

Surprisingly, there is an alarmingly high level of vitamin D deficiency among the residents of sunny Singapore, especially the elderly and people working the night shift, due to the fact that most of them stay indoors or walk outside shielded by umbrellas and sunscreen. Unfortunately, vitamin D is not something you can find in beauty products, which you slather on your skin or massage into your scalp. It is mainly produced in the skin when exposed to the UVB rays of the sun.

The general recommendation is to get between five and 30 minutes of full body sun exposure at least twice a week (that means being completely naked with zero coverage).

“With the modern lifestyle that we live in, plus Covid-19 thrown into the ring, most of us tend to stay indoors now. And even when heading out, we would be fully clothed and have a layer of sunscreen applied. That makes it difficult to get sufficient sun exposure needed to make enough vitamin D to meet the body’s requirements,” says TH Wong, resident pharmacist at health and beauty online retailer Glovida.

Rather than let the hundreds of dollars spent on whitening and anti-ageing skincare, sunscreens and protective make up go down the drain, experts suggest eating your vitamin D instead.

Melanie Anthonysamy, nutrition team lead at HealthifyMe, lists vitamin D-rich foods: Fatty fish like mackerel, salmon, tuna and sardines, beef liver, egg yolk, cereals or dairy products fortified with Vitamin D, or mushroom and soy products for vegetarians.

But not many people eat healthy, balanced diets resulting in inadequate amounts of vitamin D-fortified foods in their daily diets. “To give you an idea of how much you need to eat to get sufficient vitamin D in your diet, you would require at least 170g salmon, or 25 egg yolks, or two litres of milk every day,” says Wong.

The best and most efficient way of getting vitamin D into your body is simply popping a daily supplement. The recommended dietary allowance of vitamin D for adults up to 69 years old is 600/IU a day, and for those above 70 years old, 800/IU a day is required, advises Anthonysamy.

She suggests when shopping for supplements, do look for ones that offer the daily recommended allowance you need for your age bracket. “Too much vitamin D consumption can be fatal as it can cause toxicity which could lead to renal failure, cardiac arrhythmias, and even death. It is not recommended to take above 4000IU of vitamin D a day unless monitored by your physician,” she says.

To know if you are taking the right amount of daily supplements, Kei suggests taking a simple blood test to determine deficiencies in your body. This is helpful in determining why you are experiencing bodily imbalances like unusual breakouts, fatigue or hair loss.

If thinning tresses or hair fall is your concern, Kei recommends this vitamin cocktail to improve the quality of your locks: Iron, vitamin B12, vitamin D and zinc.

“Besides vitamins, proteins are also very important because hair is made up of proteins. A well-balanced diet that consists of meat, carbohydrates and vegetables is a good start to having healthy hair,” she says.

MAIN PHOTO: Unsplash/Mathilde Langevin

Natural beauty
Give your skin a vitamin boost with superfoods found in these skincare products.

Clarins Double Serum Eye ($115 available from Sept 1 onwards) is a 96% natural gel-cream formula infused with 13 plant extracts, namely turmeric which is a powerful antioxidant with antibacterial and anti-inflammatory qualities. The other is organic wild chervil which has been tested to boost the production of proteins needed to boost cellular cohesion and strength. This potent formula not only smoothens wrinkles, reduces puffiness and dark circles and brightens and strengthens the eye contour, it also contains an anti-pollution complex to protect the skin from blue light rays from your devices.

Every drop of Elemis London Superfood Facial Oil ($90) feeds your skin its daily recommended serving of greens so that you look radiant and dewy sans the wrinkles and dullness. Light, non-greasy and easily absorbed, this award-winning product is formulated with a blend of nine superfood oils including broccoli, rosehip, flaxseed and daikon radish to deeply nourish and repair the skin.

Swiss brand Chantecaille infuses five plant stem cell extracts into its Bio Lifting Oil Free Fluid+ ($471 from Takashimaya) to smoothen lines while working to moisturise, lift and firm the skin. The key ingredients include raspberry stem cell extract, a powerful antioxidant that moisturises and reduces redness; caffeine-free coffee stem cell extracts to double the moisture; and cocoa peptides to tone skin and fight blue light pollution. This lightweight vegan-friendly moisturiser with mattifying effects is suitable for all skin types and is ideal as a makeup base to smoothen out the skin.

Now in a supersized 50ml bottle, Jurlique’s Nutri-Define Supreme Rejuvenating Serum ($285) rejuvenates and replumps the skin with biodynamically-harvested horseradish and spilanthes extracts scientifically proven to increase skin’s collagen production, one of the key factors in preventing the appearance of ageing. Together with Jurlique’s signature blend of rose extracts, calendula, marshmallow root and lavender, skin is firmer, hydrated and more luminous.

To get that Korean-inspired “glass skin” effect, beauty junkies recommend Glow Recipe’s Pineapple-C Bright Serum ($75 from Sephora), a lightweight serum infused with hyaluronic acid and pure pineapple juice — a potent and natural source of vitamin C, AHA and bromelain enzymes that helps to retexturise and even out tone. Additional chamomile calms and soothes skin, creating a gentle formula for sensitive skin.

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