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Open Access Highly Accessed Research article

Effect of physical activity and sun exposure on vitamin D status of Saudi children and adolescents

Abdulaziz Al-Othman12, Sara Al-Musharaf3, Nasser M Al-Daghri11045*, Soundararajan Krishnaswamy4, Deqa S Yusuf1, Khalid M Alkharfy16, Yousef Al-Saleh17, Omar S Al-Attas145, Majed S Alokail145, Osama Moharram8, Shaun Sabico4 and George P Chrousos49

Author Affiliations

1 Prince Mutaib Chair for Biomarkers of Osteoporosis, King Saud University, Riyadh, Kingdom of Saudi Arabia

2 College of Applied Medical Sciences, King Saud University, Riyadh, Kingdom of Saudi Arabia

3 College of Science, King Saud University Women's Section, Riyadh, Kingdom of Saudi Arabia

4 Biomarkers Research Program, Biochemistry Department, College of Science, King Saud University, Riyadh, Kingdom of Saudi Arabia

5 Center of Excellence in Biotechnology Research, King Saud University, Riyadh, Kingdom of Saudi Arabia

6 Clinical Pharmacy Department, College of Pharmacy, King Saud University, Riyadh, Kingdom of Saudi Arabia

7 College of Medicine, King Saud University of Health Sciences, Riyadh, Kingdom of Saudi Arabia

8 King Abdulaziz University Hospital, King Saud University, Riyadh, Kingdom of Saudi Arabia

9 First Department of Pediatrics, Athens University Medical School, Athens, 11527, Greece

10 Biochemistry Department, College of Science, King Saud University, PO Box, 2455, Riyadh, 11451, Kingdom of Saudi Arabia

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BMC Pediatrics 2012, 12:92  doi:10.1186/1471-2431-12-92

Published: 3 July 2012

Abstract

Background

Accumulating evidence suggests an increased prevalence of vitamin D deficiency in the Middle East. In this context, we aimed to determine whether the prevalence of vitamin D deficiency is related to degree of physical activity and sun exposure among apparently healthy Saudi children and adolescents, a little studied population.

Methods

A total of 331 Saudi children aged 6–17 years (153 boys and 178 girls) were included in this cross sectional study. Levels of physical activity and sun exposure were determined using a standard questionnaire. Anthropometry, serum calcium and 25-(OH) vitamin D were analyzed.

Results

All subjects were vitamin D deficient, the majority being moderately deficient (71.6%). Age was the single most significant predictor affecting 25 (OH) Vitamin D levels, explaining 21% of the variance perceived (p = 1.68 x 10-14). Age-matched comparisons revealed that for groups having the same amount of sun exposure, those with moderate or are physically active will have higher levels of vitamin D status, though levels in across groups remained deficient.

Conclusion

Vitamin D deficiency is common among Saudi children and adolescents, and is influenced by both sun exposure and physical activity. Promotion of an active outdoor lifestyle among Saudi children in both homes and schools may counteract the vitamin D deficiency epidemic in this vulnerable population. Vitamin D supplementation is suggested in all groups, including those with the highest sun exposure and physical activity.

Keywords:
Vitamin D; Saudi children