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Health & Lifestyle

Vitamin D

16 December 2011

We’re sun drenched, but are we vitamin D drenched?


The glorious Australian summer is the ideal time for sports, swimming and outdoor fun for the family. However, while many of us love to spend our days soaking up the rays, you may be surprised to hear that as much as 80% of certain population groups in Australia are insufficient in vitamin D.


World renowned vitamin D expert, Professor Michael Holick, says vitamin D deficiency is a global epidemic, not uncommon in countries that are known for their sunshine.


“More than 50% of indians are vitamin D deficient in urban areas. More than 90% of Saudi Arabians and people living in the UAE are vitamin D deficient or insufficient because they avoid sun exposure. In Europe, we have a major health issue - more than 50% of the European population are deficient or insufficient.”


With one in nine Australians now being evaluated for vitamin D deficiency and $80m a year being spent out of the national healthcare budget, Prof. Holick urges patients to speak to their practitioners about how to increase vitamin D supplementation for themselves and for their families.


“For children, I recommend 600-1000IU of vitamin D supplementation per day when they are over the age of 1 year. For children under 1 year of age 400-1000IU a day is perfectly fine. For adults, they should be taking at least 1500-2000IU of vitamin D supplements a day.


Prof. Holick recommends sensible sun exposure for a short amount of time. “If you know you get a sunburn after 15 minutes in the midday sun, then go outside for three minutes before you put the recommended SPF 30 sunscreen on,” he explains.


“If you wear a sunscreen, which is what is recommended for all Australians before you walk outside, an SPF of 30 reduces your ability to make vitamin D in your skin by about 95-99%. You cannot make any vitamin D in the early morning or late afternoon. It’s the worst time to go outside because a) you make no vitamin D and b) you’re being blasted by UVA radiation which increases your risk of melanoma.”


Vitamin D is very important for reducing the risk of infectious diseases, including pulmonary tuberclosis (TB) and the influenza infection. “Vitamin D deficiency in adults increases the risk of developing breast cancer by as much as 50%, colorectal cancer by as much as 50%, increases their risk of having a heart attack by as much as 50%. And if you have a heart attack you have a 100% higher risk of dying of that heart attack if you’re vitamin D deficient at the time of that heart attack,” advises Prof. Holick.


Watch Prof. Holick discuss the importance of maintaining adequate vitamin D levels in the video below

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