Shining the Light on Vitamin D

Written by Victoria Laios (APD)

It’s that time of the year where winter has arrived – overcast, cold and rainy and less sun exposure during these upcoming months. During this season, more and more people are becoming Vitamin D deficient. Nearly one third of Australian adults suffer Vitamin D deficiency [1] – this is becoming an emerging health problem within our country.

This article will outline the importance of Vitamin D, common reasons for deficiency and how to prevent this from happening to you.

Vitamin D facts:

Vitamin D is an essential nutrient for overall health. It is found in every cell of our body [2]. It plays a role in effective calcium and phosphate absorption – this is vital for maintaining bone health and muscle function. It also prevents osteoporosis and rickets [2]. Low Vitamin D levels can contribute to softened bones, increased risk of falls and the development of chronic diseases – cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes and some types of cancers [2].

People at greatest risk of Vitamin D deficiency include [1, 2]:

  • Elderly
  • Women
  • Dark skinned or from a Non-European background
  • Complete less than 2.5 hours of physical activity per week
  • Cover up their skin for religious purposes
  • Crohn’s or Coeliac Disease – these conditions affect Vitamin D absorption

So, how do we ensure that we get enough Vitamin D during the winter period?

Many of my clients present with Vitamin D deficiency and are unsure of its causes. Therefore, here are some helpful tips for increasing your Vitamin D levels [2, 3]:

Getting more sun exposure

UV radiation from the sun is the best source of Vitamin D. When the sunlight hits our skin, this triggers Vitamin D synthesis [2]. For the winter months, it is recommended to obtain 2 -3 hours of sun exposure over the week [2]. People with naturally darker skin may require a larger amount of sun exposure, to obtain adequate Vitamin D [3].  

Regular physical activity

Being physically active can increase the production of Vitamin D in the body. Try to engage in regular exercise on most days of the week (at least 5 days/week).

Eating Vitamin D rich foods

Few foods contain Vitamin D – it only makes a small contribution to Vitamin D levels. Food sources include eggs, liver, fatty fish (e.g. mackerel, herring and salmon) and cheese. Some margarine and butters at the supermarket may also have added Vitamin D.

Eating Calcium rich foods

Calcium rich foods are important, as this mineral works with Vitamin D to strengthen bones. High quality food sources include dairy products, leafy vegetables, fish, tofu, Brazil nuts and almonds.

If you suspect Vitamin D deficiency, it is recommended to consult with your doctor [2, 3]. Doctors may prescribe Vitamin D supplements to increase your levels. However, these should only be taken as advised. 

For more information, our Accredited Practising Dietitians’ at Eat for Wellness can provide you with tailored advice on how to meet your Vitamin D levels. Time to get out of house and explore the outdoors – take up every opportunity this winter to get some sun exposure.

References: