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Vitamin D

Vitamin D refers to a group of related fat-soluble vitamins and is vital for good health throughout our lives. It plays many roles in our bodies including aiding in bone mineralisation, muscle contraction, nerve conduction and helps regulate cell growth. Vitamin D affects several areas in the human body. Importantly, Vitamin D is essential for the absorption and use of calcium and phosphorus from the small intestine and is vital for normal mineralisation of bone.

 

The sun is the best natural source of vitamin D, but you need to balance sun exposure with skin cancer risk. Daily exercise also assists with the body’s production of vitamin D. Some people are at increased risk of low vitamin D – this includes people with naturally very dark skin and people who have very low exposure to sunlight.

 

Low vitamin D has also been linked to an increased risk of:

  • Multiple sclerosis
  • Diabetes (type1 and type 2)
  • Various types of cancers (particularly colon cancer)
  • Heart disease
  • Mental health conditions (including schizophrenia)
  • Worse outcomes in stroke
  • Altered immunity and other autoimmune diseases.

There are small amounts of vitamin D in some foods such as fish, eggs and UV-irradiated mushrooms, but it is difficult to obtain enough vitamin D from diet alone. Most people only get five to 10 per cent of their vitamin D from food. Margarine and some types of milk have added vitamin D.

 

If you think you may have low Vitamin D levels, ask your general practioner for a blood test to check your serum levels. If your results come back showing low vitamin D, a supplement is the vital key to increase your levels.

 

References

  • Low vitamin D in Victoria: Key health messages for doctors, nurses and allied health, 2012, Department of Health, Victorian Government. Available Here.
  • Vitamin D, Nutrient Reference Values (NRVs), Australian National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) and New Zealand Ministry of Health (MoH).
  • Vitamin D deficiency: are you at risk? SunSmart, The Cancer Council Victoria, Australia. Available Here.
  • Calcium, vitamin D and osteoporosis, Osteoporosis Australia. Available Here.
  • Sun protection for people with naturally very dark skin, SunSmart, The Cancer Council Victoria, Australia. Available Here.
  • Risks and benefits of sun exposure, Australasian College of Dermatologists, Australian and New Zealand Bone and Mineral Society, Osteoporosis Australia and the Cancer Council Australia. Available Here.
  • Solar UV radiation and the UV Index, Australian Radiation Protection and Nuclear Safety Agency. Available Here.