With so much public education about the dangers of sun damage, the last thing you’ll be expecting to be told is that you’re not getting enough sunshine. However, in Australia up to 30% of the population have inadequate vitamin D status, increasing to more than 50% in women during winter and spring.
What does vitamin D have to do with sunshine?
Also known as the “sunshine vitamin”, vitamin D is essential for your health. With a typical western diet, most people will get about 10% of their daily vitamin intake through food and the other 90% is actually processed by the body through exposure to sunshine.
Why is it important?
Vitamin D is essential to maintain bone health and muscle function. Deficiencies in children can cause rickets, and over time it can cause osteoporosis in adults. It is also a predictor of falls, due to reduced muscle strength, which coupled with osteoporosis can lead to complicated fractures. Depression has also been linked to vitamin D deficiency.
Think you get enough sunshine?
You might be surprised at how much sun exposure you actually need to make enough vitamin D. Unfortunately the answer isn’t straightforward. During winter you’ll need to be in the sun for longer, and the further from the equator you are, the more sun you’ll need. Fair-skinned people are better adapted to process vitamin D and as such need to spend less time outside.
People who tend to avoid the sun or dress very modestly might be surprised to find that they are vitamin D deficient, along with office workers and those who spend a lot of time indoors, particularly the elderly who are in care.
Being overweight can also put you at risk of being vitamin D deficient as fat cells absorb vitamin D and prevent it from being released in a way that can be used by the body.
Vitamin D deficiency can be diagnosed with a simple blood test. To find out more about how much sun you should be getting and how to balance sun exposure with skin cancer risks go towww.sunsmart.com.au/vitamin-d