Universiteit Leiden

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D-lightful Sunshine Disrupted

This study stresses the importance of investigating vitamin D deficiency in every community to better understand the deteriorating effect that sociocultural practices may have had on health.

Barbara Veselka
29 January 2019
Dissertation in Open Access

Vitamin D deficiency as a method for the reconstruction of changes in sociocultural practices due to industrialisation in 17th - 19th century Netherlands

Vitamin D deficiency is generally associated with the consequences of the Industrial Revolution, such as tall densely-packed buildings and air pollution blocking sunlight. Dermal synthesis of vitamin D under the influence of UVB radiation is important for a healthy skeleton and a deficiency may lead to pathological bowing of bones. The Netherlands did not experience the Industrial Revolution as many other European countries did and vitamin D deficiency was expected to be (nearly) absent in Dutch communities. To test this, six 17th - 19th century human skeletal collections from rural and small urban centres were analysed for vitamin D deficiency (N = 632 individuals). Regardless of geographic location, community size, daily activities, and socioeconomic status, all evaluated communities experienced vitamin D deficiency in childhood. Sociocultural practices, such as gender-related activities, as opposed to classic factors, are suggested to have been main etiological agents in the development of vitamin D deficiency. Application of newly developed methods for identification of this disease in teeth, showed vitamin D deficiency to be recurrent and often seasonal.

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