Are Muslim dress codes bad for women's health?

Christopher Furlong/Getty Images News

Conservative Muslim dress codes may be causing vitamin D deficiency in women by limiting their exposure to sunlight, humans' main source for the vitamin, according to new research.

Scientists had previously found high rates of vitamin D deficiency in Arab and East Indian women living in the United Arab Emirates. A follow-up study investigated the effect of vitamin D supplements on 178 UAE women, many of whom covered themselves entirely, faces and hands included, when outside their homes. Only two of the women did not have vitamin D deficiency prior to receiving supplements. The results were published by a team of scientists in the June issue of the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.

One of the researchers concludes, "When sunlight exposure … is limited, much higher dietary intake of vitamin D is needed than currently recommended," particularly for those who breast-feed.

At least one commentator, though, is saying it's not higher doses of vitamin D that are needed, but rather, lower doses of fundamentalism.


When wrestlers ruled Bulgaria


When Communism collapsed in Eastern Europe, many states were thrown into turmoil. Creating functioning markets and an open political system was a tremendous challenge. Often, powerful new actors leaped into the political vacuum left by the Soviet Union and its pliable allies.

In Bulgaria, it was the wrestlers who took charge. Bulgaria, you see, was famous during the Communist era for its Olympic wrestling team. Subsidized by the state, the wrestlers lived high on the hog. So when Communism fell and the spigots turned off, they turned to racketeering to fund their lavish lifestyles. As journalist Robert Kaplan recounts in Eastward to Tartary, they put the commanding heights of Bulgaria's nascent economy and its embryonic democratic politics into a headlock.

And the wrestlers didn't just restrict their activities to Bulgaria. They organized themselves into complex groups, linked up with Russian mobsters, and dabbled in a wide range of criminal activities across the Balkans. Their shadowy, quasi-legal operations are a classic example of the new kind of trade described in Illicit, the recent book by FP editor Moisés Naím.

The wrestlers have been weakened since the 1990s. Ivailo Kalfin, Bulgaria's foreign minister, says his country recently assured U.S. President George W. Bush that they are now "left in the past." But as today's European Commission report on Bulgaria makes clear, corruption and organized crime are still a huge problem in the country, which joined the EU in January. So although the wrestlers may be gone, their legacy assuredly remains. (I'm going to resist a crack about how this report could put EU enlargement into a "sleeper hold".)