Vitamin D (cholecalciferol) is a fat-soluble vitamin that is unique to any other type of vitamin as it is the only one your body can actually produce on its own
This is only possible when sunlight hits the skin and creates a chemical reaction producing cholecalciferol. Cholecalciferol then travels to the liver and kidneys where it goes through a series of chemical reactions producing the final product, the active form calcitriol. Vitamin D is vital for bone and muscle health and works by enhancing the absorption of calcium. Additionally, vitamin D is thought to assist in maintaining the immune system and skin health. Unlike other nutrients, the level of vitamin D required cannot be met by food alone. Hence, with regular sun exposure in conjunction with a diet of foods high in vitamin D you can obtain what your body requires.
Vitamin D levels vary depending on the following factors:
- What time of the day you are exposed to the sunlight- The Ultraviolet B (UVB) rays from the sun are responsible for producing vitamin D when it comes in to contact with bare skin. The middle of the day is usually when UVB rays are at their strongest.
- How far you live from the equator. The closer to the equator, the more sunshine you will likely be exposed to.
- You will have less vitamin D exposure in winter.
So how do we get enough vitamin D and avoid sunburn and skin cancer?
- Don’t panic! Cancer Council Australia offers a safe alternative to laying in the sun all day in your swimwear. Follow their tips for getting your required sun exposure:
- Sun protection is not necessary below a UV index of 3 (unless you are an outdoor worker who is prone to skin cancer)
- Go outdoors in the middle of the day if the index remains 3 or below
- If the index is about 3, sun protection is crucial. Still not to worry as most people will still get enough Vitamin D through a few minutes of normal day to day activity
Who is at risk and what are the symptoms of a Vitamin D deficiency?
The Australian Bureau of Statistics reports that approximately 1 in 4 Australians are deficient in Vitamin D.
Symptoms of a vitamin D deficiency:
- Weakness and fatigue
- Muscle and bone pain
- Easily broken bones
- Falls in the elderly
- Falling sick more frequently
- Rickets in infants
Why you could be at risk of deficient:
- Infants to deficient mothers
- Elderly with limited mobility
- People who work indoors
- People who live in cooler climates
- Dark-skinned people
- Individuals with Crohn’s disease, cystic fibrosis, celiac disease and kidney disease
Food Sources of Vitamin D and how much do we require:
Nutrient Reference Values (NRVs) for Australia and New Zealand recommend the following daily adequate intake (AI) of Vitamin D:
- Men and women aged 19-50: 0 micrograms a day
- Men and women aged 51-70: 10.0 micrograms a day
- Men and women aged 70 and over: 15.0 micrograms a day
- Fortified Milk
- Egg yolk
- Fatty fish- salmon, cod, herring, sardine
With the help of some UVB rays and a diet high in vitamin D foods, you can ensure that you are on the right track to a healthy mind and body. If you feel that you could be at risk of a deficiency please seek professional advice on diet, lifestyle, and supplementation.
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