Study of blood tests in Tokyo finds 98% have vitamin D deficiencies

D come on, everyone!

One of the great things about living in Japan is enjoying the country’s traditional cuisine, filled with nutritious foods. However, the other day as I was exiting Starbucks I tripped over the wheel of a Pizza Hut delivery bike that was parked next to a McDonalds and nearly broke my toe!

It’s strange because I don’t remember my bones being that fragile, but perhaps a recent study from Jikei University School of Medicine holds the answer. According to the study, announced on June 5, a whopping 98 percent of physical exam results in Tokyo showed a vitamin D deficiency.

Vitamin D is what helps the body properly take in calcium, among other minerals, which leads to strong bones. It can be absorbed into the body in three ways: through the absorption of sunlight, by eating certain animal products such as oily fish, and by eating certain plant products such as mushrooms.

The effective range of foods that contain significant amounts of vitamin D are actually quite few and far between and include fish such as salmon, mackerel and tuna or mushrooms such as shiitake. Thankfully, these are all pretty common foods in Japanese cooking.

Even the 7-Eleven here can help you get your vitamin D fix

However, when Jikei University looked at the blood tests of about 5,500 adult men and women from the year before the pandemic, they found that 98 percent of them had lower than recommended vitamin D levels. Notably, the type of vitamin D derived from mushrooms was missing from the blood samples.

Deficiencies also appear to be more prevalent in young people, which leads researchers to suspect that Westernization of diets is a contributing factor.

Something is wrong with children today if they can’t get into that

If so, then the question arises as to why people in Western countries don’t all walk around with rickets. One reason is that other countries tend to compensate by fortifying other more commonly consumed foods with the vitamin, such as North America which has a habit of putting vitamin D in milk.

On the other hand, Japanese milk is not normally fortified with vitamin D, except for some specialty brands. Thus, while a Western diet might gradually make its way into Japanese society, the appropriate countermeasures such a diet requires have not.

This is still only speculation, and many online comments seem to believe that lack of sunlight is a more widespread problem among residents of Japan than mushroom consumption.

I get my vitamin D by getting 20 minutes of sunlight a day. I only expose my palms to the sun to avoid burning.
Mushrooms are great. They are always cheap and with a little soy sauce and butter they can be eaten with anything.
Do they want us to eat more mushrooms? No problem!
I happened to start taking vitamin D supplements recently and felt so much better.
I eat a lot of mushrooms and salmon, but I don’t think I’m getting enough sunlight.
Cup Noodle Pro is fortified with vitamin D, so we eat only that.
How about I just drink Milo?
Mario was always right.
I only go out for 40 minutes a day and get all the DI vitamin I need.

Researchers agree that the shortage is partly due to a lack of sunlight exposure in urban areas. But in general, most people get their vitamin D from a combination of all three sources, unless you enjoy sitting by a window with your palms up for 20 minutes a day.

Tokyo’s sun in the summer is no joke and could kill you before generating the required amount of vitamin D

And despite what people say in the comments, the data speaks for itself that eating more mushrooms would be the ideal way for people to balance the sources of their normal vitamin D needs. Fortunately, the shiitake market in Japan is an embarrassment for the wealth in terms of options, with self-growing kits, crane games and even shiitake mushroom snacks specially designed to appeal to people who don’t like shiitake mushrooms.

Source: Kyodo, Hachima Kiko
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