While the UAE may get year-round sunshine, vitamin D deficiency is a common health concern in the country, recently topping a list of health-related Google search terms.
Data from a new study conducted by UK sports retailer SportsShoes.com showed that there is an annual average of 46,500 “vitamin D” searches in the UAE.
The news is probably not surprising after a two-year study carried out by the Dubai Health Authority in 2017 indicated alarming levels of vitamin D deficiency in the emirate, with up to 90 per cent of the population not getting enough. And the Covid-19 pandemic will have exacerbated the issue, as people spent more time indoors.
Vitamin D is a fat-soluble vitamin that is known to help the body absorb and retain calcium and phosphorus, which are both important for bone building. But many other human organs and tissues have receptors for vitamin D, which according to Harvard University's School of Public Health suggests it has crucial roles beyond bone health.
“Vitamin D deficiency happens due to limited exposure to sunlight. People suffering from the deficiency generally lack a feeling of well-being stemming from muscle pain, fatigue, hair loss, low energy and at times depression,” says Dr Raza Siddiqui, executive director at RAK Hospital.
Aside from the sun, vitamin D can be derived from supplements. There are also some foods that can aid the process of vitamin D production, such as fortified milk, fortified orange juice, fortified cereal, mackerel, canned sardines, canned salmon, pickled herring, codfish, Swiss cheese and mushrooms.
In an earlier interview, Dr Maha Osman, a specialist in family medicine at Medcare Medical Centre, said people should speak to their doctors about taking vitamin D supplements, as appropriate quantities may vary from person to person.
Spotlight on mental health
The Google research data also revealed that many UAE residents are searching for the terms “meditation” and “journalling”, two activities thought to contribute to improved mental health.
Meditation has become increasingly popular in recent years with more people adding it to their fitness and well-being routines. Simply put, meditation involves focusing or clearing your mind using mental and physical techniques.
According to the Cleveland Clinic, meditation is associated with decreased symptoms of anxiety, depression and post-traumatic stress disorder. It also benefits memory and concentration, as well as helping people to cope with stress.
Journalling is another helpful tool for improving mental health.
“Borrowing principles from mindfulness, the wellness activity has sparked interest in recent years as people all over the world turn to the method to help deal with stress and overwhelming thoughts,” SportsShoes.com said.
Social media has boosted in the renewed popularity of journalling, with the search term gaining 5.3 billion TikTok views globally.
Other top-10 most searched terms in the UAE included “vitamin B12“, “5am club” and “lymphatic drainage”.
The study analysed Google search data on more than 60 terms associated with health, from nutrition to fitness.