Recently, there has been a lot of talk about vitamin D deficiency in Australia. This sounds a bit strange at first, because as you probably know our best source of Vitamin D is from the sun, and there is no shortage of sunshine in Australia. But it seems that many of us spend longer hours indoors or are covering up too well when we are outdoors.
Vitamin D forms when UV light hits the skin. You can get a bit of Vit D from Cod Liver oil, Oily Fish, egg yolk, but the sun is our best and safest source.
Why is Vitamin D so important?
Its main role is to help with the absorption of Calcium and phosphorous from the gut. It then regulates how it’s used and stops the kidneys from excreting Calcium. So there is no point in taking in all the Calcium you need if your body isn’t using it. If you are vitamin D deficient, which more and more people are, you are at risk of some obvious diseases such as Osteoporosis and some not so obvious diseases as diabetes, stroke, Heart disease, HBP, depression, Alzheimers, auto immune disorders and cancer.
People at risk of deficiency include the elderly, people with osteoporosis and dark skinned people who need more sunlight as the pigment in their skin reduces UV penetration, people who cover up with sunscreen or clothing all the time and babies of mums who are vit D deficient especially if they are being breastfed.
So this brings us back to the sunscreen debate. If we don’t use sunscreen we are at risk of developing skin cancer and if we do we can also develop cancer due to lack of vitamin D and due to the carcinogenic ingredients contained in many sunscreens. Confused? Me too. So I checked out what the Cancer Council had to say. According to them :
“In winter in the southern parts of Australia, where UV radiation levels are less intense, people may need about two to three hours of sunlight to the face, arms and hands, or equivalent area of skin, spread over a week to maintain adequate vitamin D levels. In winter in northern parts of Australia, people will continue to maintain adequate vitamin D levels going about their day-to-day activities, so it is not necessary to deliberately seek UV radiation exposure. Most Australians need sun protection when the UV Index is 3 or above. UV radiation levels in northern states are higher than southern states, so in some parts of Australia, sun protection is needed all year around at certain times of the day. In these areas, it is safe to go outside without sun protection in the early morning and late afternoon when the UV Index is below 3.However in southern states, there are times of the year when sun protection may not be necessary. People in southern states may not need sun protection from May to August when the UV Index is likely to be below 3. The only exception is if they are at high altitudes or near highly reflective surfaces like snow or water.”
So it is a balancing act. Obviously it is never a good idea to get sunburnt but getting small doses of regular sunshine is really important. Wear protection in the middle of the day especially in summer, and get some early morning or late afternoon sun. I believe it is better to get some sun and then cover up with a hat and rashie than to lather yourself with toxic sunscreen.
You can check out the cancer council Australia website to find out what the UV index is for the day in your state. If you think you might have a vitamin D deficiency then see your doctor.