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Noon Assembly in schools to address Vitamin D deficiencies

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Sunlight is a natural source of Vitamin D and Project Dhoop by FSSAI seeks to promote this vital source for school going children. Vitamin D deficiency is on the rise and no amount of vitamin supplements or medication is enough as is sunlight – the one true source. Therefore, FSSAI’s Project Dhoop is urging schools to shift their morning assembly to Noon assembly. This is because it is the best time for students to soak in sunlight for natural absorption of Vitamin D.

The Project Dhoop, initiated by FSSAI is in association with NCERT, North MCD schools and NDMC. It is further supported by Kwality and conceptualized by the McCann Health. Together, they are urging schools to move their morning assembly time to 11: 00 AM to 1:00 PM.

While micronutrients that includes vitamin D, are required in small quantities, they have the superpower to enable one’s body to produce enzymes, necessary hormones and other substances that are essential for overall development and growth. In the same way, vitamin D deficiency can cause severe health problems. In fact, Vitamin A, B12, D, Iron, Iodine and Folic Acid are the most important ones and those who are deficient in these, suffer from weak health and fall prey to ailments. These are a must for pregnant women and children.

Vitamin D can be sourced through fish products and fish. For Indians, the best way to overcome Vitamin D deficiency is through exposure to sunlight. The sun rays act on the cholesterol present in the skin, converting the cholesterol to Vitamin D through additional conversions that take place in the kidneys and the liver. Factors that contribute to deficiency in Vitamin D are wearing clothes that cover the whole body, staying inside in air-conditioned rooms and overuse of sunscreens.

Ironically, most parts in the country receive sunlight in abundance throughout the year. Yet, research has found that at least 90% of boys and girls across Indian states are deficient in Vitamin D. Even in the capital, up to 97% of school children between the age of 6 and 17 are vitamin D deficient. And only 10-11% of these kids exhibit signs of the deficiency.

Pawan Agarwal, CEO, FSSAI, at the launch event of at the National Bal Bhavan, said, “It is unfortunate that while most children in India suffer from Vitamin D deficiency, there is a severe lack of awareness. FFSAI wants to make people aware. Through the Noon Assembly initiative, Project Dhoop wants to ensure that this deficiency is rectified.”

At the event, Retired Major General Dr. R K Marwaha, Scientific Advisor and Senior Consultant Endocrinology, added that “Our human body needs adequate amount of Vitamin D to strengthen the bones and maintain other bodily functions. Ten percent of the vitamin D requirement can be met by diet but 90% needs to be met by exposure to sunlight.”

Sun rays are good for us, so we exposed ourselves early in the morning. But the best time to do so is between 11:00 AM to 1:00 PM as it helps to boost the Vitamin D levels with UVB radiations.

He further added that we can all get abundant Vitamin D from sunshine by exposing only 18% of body surface area (without sunscreen) to sunshine at noon for 30-45 minutes.He suggested that “If the school uniforms are designed such that both forearms and face are exposed to sunlight easily, this would be equivalent to 12% of body surface area. Hence, by the simple act of shifting morning assembly in our schools to noon assembly and careful designing of school uniforms, a large percentage of student’s Vitamin D requirement will be met.”

Participating on the occasion, representatives of NCERT, NDMC and North MCD Schools and school authorities stated that “We are very happy to be a part of the ‘Project Dhoop’ and would definitely look at this opportunity seriously, considering that the noon assembly takes advantage of the freely available sunshine. We shall advise all schools to shift morning assembly to noon assembly. This little step can help children grow into healthy adults.”

Mr. Naval Sharma, President and Head of Business Transformation, Kwality stated that recognizing the vital role of Vitamin D in our diets; Kwality has fortified many of its milk and milk products with Vitamin D and other essential nutrients. We are proud to support FSSAI’s +F fortified logo on our products and be a part of Project Dhoop Initiative.

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