One in three Australians are deficient in vitamin D. Getting enough vitamin D through safe sun exposure, diet and/or supplements are imperative to for general good health and also to fight off chronic (long-term) diseases.
Vitamin D deficiency is associated with a range of health conditions from multiple sclerosis to polycystic ovary disease.
You may be at risk of low vitamin D levels if you:
• Don't get out much in the sun – whether this is because you spend work and leisure hours indoors or cover up when in the sun and thus limit sun exposure.
• Are obese (vitamin D is stored in fat, but doesn’t get out again until the fat is broken down ie with when weight is lost[i]).
• Have naturally dark skin (darker skin tones contain more melanin, which blocks the absorption of ultraviolet light) and/or cover up with clothing.
• Have very fair skin – some research suggests that people with fair skin may be lacking in vitamin D partly due to sun avoidance because of the fear of sunburn.
Ravinder Lilly, Nutritionist at USANA Health Sciences ,“By taking some simple steps and introducing minor adjustments to daily routines and diet, Australians can maintain adequate levels of vitamin D and prevent the development of long term illness. This will also strengthen the immune system that will help fight off the seasonal winter flu.
There are three key ways to boost vitamin D levels:
1. Go out for a quick afternoon walk
In winter, the sun exposure to arms or equivalent needs to be around noon and for seven minutes (Cairns) to 30-40mins (Hobart) most days spread over a week to maintain adequate vitamin D levels.
During winter the energetic UV that produces vitamin D is not around in early morning or late afternoon so it is important to get out in the sunshine during the afternoon. Take a stroll during your lunch break and roll up your sleeves or take your jacket off to allow the sun to reach the skin.
2. Eat Vitamin D-containing foods
Ms Lilly says, “The vast majority of our vitamin D intake is made by sun exposure on the skin; eating D-containing foods contributes around 10 per cent of your requirements. These foods include:
• Liver (this isn’t suitable if you’re pregnant or planning a pregnancy, as it can contain very high levels of vitamin A which can be toxic in large doses).
• Oily fish – like salmon, sardines and fresh tuna.
• Fortified foods including breakfast cereals, eggs and milk. Full-fat milk contains most vitamin D and that is one reason that whole milk is best for toddlers and young children.”
3. Try a good quality supplement
Even low levels of vitamin D have been linked with health problems. Supplements can raise your blood levels of vitamin D if the deficiency is moderate but if levels are very low, you may need injections of vitamin D to raise blood levels rapidly. Although the sun is the major source of vitamin D, if you have a diagnosed deficiency, exposing yourself to the amount of sun needed to raise your D levels could pose a health risk.
For more information on USANA Health Sciences visit www.usana.com