Rain and cloud coverage doesn’t leave a lot of room for the sun. Since Melbourne saw February fall short of its average amount of daily sun exposure for the month and we spend most of the time indoors, there is a strong chance that we are not getting enough exposure to maintain healthy vitamin D levels, says Associate Professor Catherine Itsiopoulos, Head of Dietetics at La Trobe University.
“Vitamin D deficiency is rapidly becoming a major public health issue in Australia, primarily due to lack of adequate exposure to the sun. Vitamin D deficiency can lead to osteoporosis, poor immune function and other chronic diseases such as cancer and heart disease,” says Dr Itsiopoulos.
Naturally dark skinned people, in particular Indigenous Australians, people who cover their skin for religious reasons, the elderly who are housebound or in a nursing home and babies of women who already have low vitamin D levels are at high risk of developing vitamin D deficiency which can lead to poor bone health and other chronic diseases.
“Vitamin D is an essential vitamin for healthy bones and muscles and maintaining overall good health. In summer, most people will get enough vitamin D from a few minutes per day of exposure, however, winter in southern parts of Australia, where the UV radiation levels are less intense, may require 2–3 hours of sun exposure to maintain healthy levels of Vitamin D,” says Dr Itsiopoulos.
Tips for maintaining healthy Vitamin D levels:
- Eat three serves of oily fish per week (choose salmon, tuna or sardines);
- Choose food products that have been fortified with Vitamin D (milk, yoghurt, eggs, fat reduced butter or margarine, some breads and cereals)
- Try to spend at least 15 mins per day in the sun (exposing face, neck, hands and arms), and longer in winter.
(Source: La Trobe University)