Winter is here! A lot of us will be spending more time indoors and wearing more clothing that covers our skin. This means we will have less exposure to sunlight. Less sunlight means we may have lower levels of vitamin D.
Vitamin D is important for the strength of our bones and muscles. People with very low levels of vitamin D are at risk of breaking a bone. Our bodies make vitamin D when our skin is exposed to UV radiation from sunlight and vitamin D helps us absorb calcium.
If you have fair skin you only need about 10 minutes of exposure to the sun each day in summer to get sufficient vitamin D. This can occur when driving in the car to work or hanging the washing on the line. Half an hour or more may be needed in winter. If you have darker skin you may need up to five times more sun exposure. This is because darker skin does not absorb as much UV radiation.
Those people who are most at risk of having low vitamin D levels are; people who do not go outside very often and so do not have much sun exposure, those with darker skin and people who wear covering clothing.
Due to the risk of skin cancer some people avoid sun exposure. The Cancer Council of Australia recommends covering up/wearing sunscreen when the UV Index is above 3 or when you will be in the sun for longer than the time needed to make vitamin D.
If your Doctor thinks you may be at risk of having low vitamin D they will order a blood test to check this. A supplement can be taken to increase vitamin D levels. Some vitamin D can be obtained from our diet through eating fish and eggs though this is not enough if there is a deficiency.
In addition to the benefits of vitamin D for our bones it has been shown that adequate levels of vitamin D are important in treating and preventing type 2 diabetes, depression, ADHD, Alzheimer’s disease, dementia, schizophrenia, asthma, migraines, obesity, metabolic syndrome and cancers.