Niqab, hijab wearing women at risk from vitamin D deficiency – study

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Women gather at a beach on the Yemeni island of Socotra. Photo - Jonah M Kessel

A study conducted in Jordan has found that wearing hijab (head cover) or niqab (face veil) increases the risk of vitamin D deficiency among women. The National Centre for Diabetes, Endocrinology and Genetics, said it has found in a study that 37.3% of women had low levels of vitamin D compared to 5.1% of men.

The report noted that women who wear hijab or niqab are more likely to have low levels of vitamin D than women who do not cover their heads. The centre said the study was conducted to assess the levels of vitamin D in Jordanians at the national level and to identify groups of the population at high risk from vitamin D deficiency. The rate of low vitamin D was 36.5% among women wearing niqab, 37.9% among women wearing hijab, and 29.5% among women who do not wear any head covering.

The study, published by The Jordan Times, assessed a sample of 5,640 subjects from across the Hashemite Kingdom that also involved interviews, laboratory tests and physical measurements. According to the researchers, a major cause of vitamin D deficiency is inadequate exposure to sunlight. Health experts believe very few foods naturally contain vitamin D and foods that are fortified with vitamin D are often inadequate.

“The recommendation to avoid all sun exposure to protect against skin cancer has put the world’s population at risk for vitamin D deficiency,” the study underlined. Worldwide health studies suggest vitamin D deficiency or insufficiency affects one billion people across the globe.

According to the World Health Organisation, five to 15 minutes of casual sun exposure of the hands, face and arms two to three times a week during the summer months is sufficient to maintain vitamin D at a healthy level.

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