We may live in the sunshine state but many of us aren’t soaking up enough sun. Statistics suggest that more than 30% of Australian adults have mild, moderate or even severe vitamin D deficiency.
What is vitamin D?
Vitamin D is known as the ‘sunshine vitamin’ and is produced in response to our skin being exposed to sunlight. Ultraviolet radiation from the sun is the best natural source of vitamin D but it can also occur naturally in foods like some fish, fish oils and egg yolks.
It helps the body use calcium from the diet, making it essential for strong bones, muscles and overall health.
Vitamin D deficiency
Although we live in a very sunny spot, most of us don’t get the required amount of sunshine per day. Being cooped up in an office or at home instead of soaking up the rays may be to blame.
There may be no obvious symptoms of vitamin D deficiency but if left untreated it can have a significant impact on your health. Potentially resulting in conditions such as:
- Bone and muscle pain
- Rickets in children (soft, weakened bones)
- Osteopenia in adults (weak, fragile bones)
Low vitamin D levels have also been linked to:
- Multiple sclerosis
- Various cancers
- Heart disease
- Mental health conditions
- Altered immunity and autoimmune diseases
Who is at risk of vitamin D deficiency?
People at risk of vitamin D deficiency include:
- Housebound elderly or those in residential care.
- Naturally darker skinned individuals.
- Those who cover their bodies for cultural or religious reasons.
- People who deliberately avoid the sun for medical or cosmetic reasons.
- Workers who spend little time outside (office workers, taxi drivers, factory workers etc).
- Those with medical conditions or medications which affect vitamin D metabolism (obesity, kidney disease etc).
Diagnosing and treating vitamin D deficiency
The most accurate way of diagnosing vitamin D deficiency is via a blood test. Treatment usually involves increasing your vitamin D intake via the following:
- Diet, eating foods higher in vitamin D such as fish, fish oil and egg yolks.
- Supplements, tablets, capsules, drops or liquids.
- Increased exposure to sunlight.