Vitamin D is cutaneously synthesized following sun exposure (vitamin D3) as well as it is derived from dietary intake (vitamin D3 and D2). Vitamin D2 and D3 are metabolized in the liver to 25-hydroxyvitamin D (25(OH)D). This metabolite is considered the functional indicator of vitamin D stores in humans. Since Jordan latitude is 31°N, cutaneous synthesis of vitamin D3 should be sufficient all year round. However, many indications reveal that it is not the case. Thus, this study was conducted to determine the 25(OH)D status among Jordanians.
Three hundred healthy volunteers were enrolled in a cross sectional study; 201 females and 99 males. 25(OH)D and calcium concentrations were measured by enzyme linked immunosorbent assay and spectroscopy techniques, respectively. All participants filled a study questionnaire that covered age, sex, height, weight, diet, and dress style for females. Females were divided according to their dress style: Western style, Hijab (all body parts are covered except the face and hands), and Niqab (all body parts are covered including face and hands).
The average plasma 25(OH)D levels in males and females were 44.5 ± 10.0 nmol/l and 31.1 ± 12.0 nmol/l, respectively. However, when female 25(OH)D levels were categorized according to dress styles, the averages became 40.3, 31.3 and 28.5 nmol/l for the Western style, Hijab and Niqab groups, respectively. These 25(OH)D levels were significantly less than those of males (p < 0.05, 0.001, 0.001, respectively). In addition, the plasma 25(OH)D levels of the Western style group was significantly higher than those of Hijab and Niqab groups (p < 0.001). Furthermore, dairy consumption in males was a positive significant factor in vitamin D status. Even though calcium concentrations were within the reference range, the Hijab and Niqab-dressed females have significantly less plasma calcium levels than males (p < 0.01).
Very low plasma 25(OH)D levels in females wearing Hijab or Niqab are highly attributed to low sunlight or UVB exposure. In addition, most of males (76%) and Western style dressed females (90%) have 25(OH)D concentrations below the international recommended values (50 nmol/l), suggesting that although sun exposure should be enough, other factors do play a role in these low concentrations. These findings emphasize the importance of vitamin D supplementation especially among conservatively dressed females, and determining if single nucleotide polymorphisms of the genes involved in vitamin D metabolism do exist among Jordanians.