There’s nothing quite like enjoying the warmth of the sun on a beautiful Winter’s Day. But many Australians are just not getting enough sunshine to have adequate Vitamin D levels. Before I answer the statement though let’s quickly review Vitamin D.
Vitamin D is essential for optimal bone health and muscle function. It assists the absorption of calcium from the intestine and acts in the mineralisation of the bone. Vitamin D also contributes to muscle strength and a deficiency can lead to poor bone health and an increase in falls and fractures in the elderly.
Whilst we live in a country that receives plenty of sunshine, there are surprising levels of Vitamin D insufficiency in the Australian population. Nearly one third of adults have Vitamin D deficiency and this rate may be even higher at the end of Winter and in southern parts of Australia.
So just how much SUN should you be exposing yourself to?
Osteoporosis Australia recommends the following:
For moderately fair skin:
In Summer: 5-10 minutes most days on exposed arms (or equivalent) at mid morning (10am) or mid afternoon (2pm)
In Winter: 7-30 minutes most days on exposed arms at midday
For darker skin:
In Summer: 15-60 minutes most days on exposed arms (or equivalent) at mid morning (10am) or mid afternoon (2pm)
In Winter: 20 minutes-3 hours most days on exposed arms at midday
The answer is true. You will need a little more time in the sun if you have darker skin.
Are you at risk of Vitamin D deficiency?
People at risk of Vitamin D deficiency are generally those groups of people who are unable to have adequate sun exposure or have other factors affecting the storage or metabolism of Vitamin D.
These groups include:
- Older people particularly those who are housebound
- Naturally darker skinned people (longer exposure time is required as skin pigment absorbs UV)
- People who avoid sun exposure (those at risk of cancer or fair skinned people)
- People who work indoors (such as shift workers, office works and night shift workers)
- People who cover their skin for religious or cultural reasons
- People with chronic disease or a disability
- Obese people
- Babies of Vitamin D deficient mothers
There has been much publicity recently about the unnecessary Vitamin D tests in otherwise healthy people. Vitamin D testing may be warranted for those with existing conditions known to decrease Vitamin D such as osteoporosis or chronic kidney failure or people with strong risk factors such as having very dark skin.
Deficiency can be easily rectified once detected with supplementation.
For most of us though this Winter – it’s time to step outside around midday, roll up your sleeves and enjoy some time in the great Australian sun!
Article written by Dr Melanie Woollam (Osteopath)
Osteoporosis Australia. www.osteoporosis.org.au
Unnecessary Vitamin D tests costs millions. 29th May 2013. SMH. http://www.smh.com.au/national/health/unnecessary-vitamin-d-tests-cost-millions-20130528-2n9nj.html