Professor Rebecca Mason is head of the Vitamin D Bone and Skin Laboratory at Sydney Medical School.
Vitamin D comes mostly from the sun and depending on where they live fair skinned Australians need six to eight minutes of sun exposure mid-morning or mid-afternoon in summer, but in winter up to 40 minutes around midday in southern states.
Professor Mason says that with an ageing population, increasing obesity, more people working or playing indoors and concern about skin cancer many Australians aren’t getting enough sun.
Vitamin D we think is a significant public health problem. About 30 per cent of population don’t have optimal levels at the end of summer and that rises to about 40 per cent at the end of winter.
Vitamin D is important for bone and muscle health and low levels have been proven to increase the risk of falls and fractures in older people.
Less certain are links that have been made to a range of health conditions, such as autoimmune diseases, MS (Multiple Sclerosis), some cancers, diabetes, schizophrenia, pregnancy complications and some health problems in children.
Despite the lack of conclusive evidence for many health problems, Professor Mason and fellow researchers believe there are enough scientific pointers justify action.
They’ve produced new clinical guidelines which, in addition to minimum sun exposure, recommend consideration of increased fortification of food and the screening of all pregnant women.
We think that it is prudent to raise Vitamin D levels to what seems to be optimal, at least for parameters we understand, so that we prevent, possibly prevent those adverse health outcomes.
The take home message here – safe sun exposure is ok – in warmer months exposing your skin mid morning or mid afternoon for 6-8 mins per day or in winter up to 40 mins around midday to get the ‘energetic’ sun.