Photo has been used for illustrative purposes.
Mariecar Jara-Puyod, Senior Reporter
Through a virtual platform due to the Novel Coronavirus (COVID-19), over 1,000 representatives of scientific and medical communities in the UAE and 12 other countries are attending the two-day seventh edition of the ”Abu Dhabi Annual International Conference on Vitamin D Deficiency and Human Health — Exploring New Dimensions of Vitamin D and Its Impact on Human Health.”
In his inaugural address on Thursday morning, patron conference UAE Minister of Tolerance and Co-Existence Sheikh Nahyan Bin Mubarak Al Nahyan encouraged the delegates, also participating from Bahrain, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Italy, Ireland, Switzerland, US, Canada, Greece, Serbia and Herzegovina, Poland, and India, to learn from all the curated evidence-based research works so that more appropriate and robust policies would be implemented to mitigate the debilitating conditions arising from Vitamin D Deficiency co-related with “obesity, cardiovascular diseases, diabetes, reproductive issues and autoimmune processes.”
In the context of the current global outbreak, Al Nahyan continued: “When we are weakened by these, we are more susceptible to COVID-19. We should therefore welcome the sun, that great source of Vitamin D.”
Al Nahyan lamented that though “Abu Dhabi is among the sunniest places (on Earth),” Hypovitaminosis D, the other name for the lack, has been continually recorded to impact both Emiratis and UAE residents, due to “modern lifestyle which inhibit good health.”
Thus, the relevance of the international congress, organised by the Abu Dhabi-based VPS Healthcare and Burjeel Hospital in association with the Zayed University.
Congress chairman/Burjeel Hospital Nephrology consultant Dr. Yassin El Shahat and Congress Scientific Committee chairperson/Zayed University-College of Natural and Health Sciences assistant dean Dr. Fatme El Anouti pointed out in their speeches the inclusion of multi-disciplinary approaches in the sessions, as a remedy.
Congress president/VPS Healthcare managing director Dr. Shamsheer Vayalil stated: “We would see experts discussing on timely and relevant topics such as Vitamin D and COVID-19, and the anti-inflammatory and anti-coagulant role of Vitamin D on COVID-19.”
“The pandemic has made us realise how important these conferences are. When new virus strains pose risks to human lives, the world must come together to deal with the crisis. Platforms like these enable us to discuss and deliberate on the way forward.”
Virtually connected from Montreal, Canada, McGill University-Department of Physiology chairperson/professor Dr. John H. White, among the world’s noted Vitamin D experts, talked on “Vitamin D and Immunity: Viral Infections.”
The molecular biologist/molecular geneticist volunteered that he would be collaborating for the investigation on the link between Vitamin D Deficiency and COVID-19 frontliners.
He presented pre-COVID-19 as well as COVID19-related Vitamin D Deficiency research studies. Among these are a pre-COVID-19 project in Japanese school children and two COVID19-related to African Americans and the Irish.
These revealed as well as affirmed that low levels of Vitamin D have serious implications on the immune system which means high risks for any form of malady or sickness.
White also mentioned: “Many respiratory viruses target lung epithelial cells which are highly Vitamin D responsive.”
On the sidelines, El Shahat told Gulf Today: “The last five years have seen significant improvements in tackling Vitamin D Deficiency in the UAE. As per certain studies, over 90 per cent of the population in the UAE were deficient in Vitamin D. Now, this has come down to less than 75 per cent (approximately 7,417,802 at current 9,890,402 based on World Health Organization population data).”
El Shahat termed the decrease as a “remarkable achievement” and acknowledged “collective efforts” as the contributory factor.
To further lessen the rates, El Shahat suggested regular Vitamin D screenings and consequent therapies, when necessary: “Prevention is always (the better option). Exposure to the sun is one of the best ways.”
He expressed hope that all health insurers include Vitamin D diagnostics in their premiums.
The measure aims to enhance precautionary measures as part of efforts to curb the spread of COVID-19 and protect public health.
In the other cases, the same cost would be covered under the government-funded programs (ABM3-ABM5), which cover all Emiratis and their domestic workers, people of determination, pregnant women, residents over 50, people with chronic diseases, people with COVID-19 symptoms and those who mix with infected people.
Vitamin D deficiency is more common in people who are older, people who have a body mass index of 30 or higher (obesity), and people who have high blood pressure (hypertension).
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