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Vitamin D And Your Health

Vitamin D - Are you getting enough?

You may think that sunny Australia would be the last country to have high levels of Vitamin D deficiency. Recent research indicates that we have much higher rates of Vitamin D deficiency than previously expected.

Research has estimated as many as 43% of young women have Vitamin D deficiency in winter and as many as 1 in 4 Australians have low levels of Vitamin D.

Vitamin D is made in our body when a certain type of cholesterol comes in contact with sunlight under the skin. The Vitamin D is then used to help calcium build strong healthy bones.

Rickets is an extreme case where children with Vitamin D Deficiency develop changes in bone structure with the typical bowed legs. Rickets thankfully is extremely rare in Australia today, however we are now seeing some more important roles for Vitamin D, particularly in the elderly population as it can help prevent osteoperosis.

Cancer in Australia has always been associated with too much sun, as we have the highest rates of skin cacner in the world, however recent studies are indicating that countries which have higher levels of sun are in fact less likely to develop certain types of cancer, particularly colon cancer which is though to be due to increased levels of Vitamin D.

Multiple Sclerosis and Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD) may also increase the risk of Vitamin D. Whilst I am not suggesting for one second you all go out and start laying in the sun greased up with your baby oil, but you should try to get about 10 to 15 of midday sun to boost your Vitamin D levels.

People who have dark skin may need more than this, and it is also important to recognize that sunscreen will reduce your ability to make Vitamin D by about 98%. Including enough Vitamin D through your diet is almost impossible, however supplementing with Vitamin D can help reduce your risk of osteoporosis and may reduce your risk of certain types of cancer.

The richest source of Vitamin D is Sardines followed by Salmon. Eggs, liver and meat. The revised Nutrient Reference Values for Australians are recommending we should aim for 5 micrograms a day for infants, 10 for adults and about 15 for the elderly.

Research suggests we are currently including between 2 to 3 micrograms a day which is well below the requirements. We are seeing more foods with Vitamin D added to them to help boost your intake.

Margarine has been fortified with Vitamin D for many years, although now we are seeing milk such as Pura Boost, Anlene and others which have added Vitamin D. Some of the processed cheeses are also enriched with Vitamin D such as the kraft slices. If you find that you are not getting regular sunlight or you always wear sunscreen then consider choosing some of the foods fortified with Vitamin D.

You may also like to include a little more fish, particularly sardines along with eggs on a more regular basis. The inclusion of a Vitamin D supplement is also an option, particularly for the elderly population so discuss this your health care professional. 

'eat right, have fun, live well'

29 Feb 2012

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