Vitamin D

Can you believe it? Australians are becoming more vitamin D deficient. Even in Queensland there is vitamin D deficiency.

While too much sun can cause problems, so can not enough. Sun exposure is essential to good health! Vitamin D deficiency is related to low calcium levels, poor bone development, autism, cancer, depression and mental illness. Recent research associates low vitamin D with cognitive decline in elderly people.

Sunlight is one of the best sources of Vitamin D, but in Tasmania half the population is Vitamin D deficient.

Vitamin D is stored in the body after exposure to sunlight, and is also essential for bone development, which is especially important for babies, children and teenagers. Another important function of vitamin D is protection against multiple sclerosis and some cancers.

How much sun? During winter – one hour of unprotected sun exposure is needed. People with dark skin need longer periods than this. During summer – five minutes per day of unprotected sun exposure. During autumn gradually increase the amount of sun exposure up to winter’s one hour per day and during spring, gradually decrease it to five minutes per day.

People who avoid the sun completely, and wear sunscreen when they are outside, need to take supplements, or watch their diet carefully. Foods that contain vitamin D are fish (salmon, sardines and tuna) eggs, butter and cheese. The most natural vitamin D supplement you can take is cod liver oil, which has other health and immune boosting benefits as well.

Finding a balance is important. Taking vitamin D supplements in a country like Australia seems, well, ridiculous. Finding the right balance of sun exposure and protection is far easier, cheaper and more enjoyable. A real concern is the risk of low vitamin D levels in children around Australia, many of who, have to wear their wide – brimmed hats in school playgrounds year-round. The research guidelines are there for us to follow. Fear of any sun exposure is misplaced – the sun is a great source of nutrition and quite literally, helps children to grow. In a country where information is plentiful, surely we can look at all of it and find a balance.

See the Vitamin D Council’s excellent website for more details and research – and in particular, the specific blood test your doctor can order to check your vitamin D levels.


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