Vitamin D is sometimes called the “sunshine vitamin” because it’s produced in your skin in response to sunlight. Your body produces vitamin D naturally when it’s directly exposed to sunlight. You can also get it through certain foods and supplements to ensure adequate levels of the vitamin in your blood.
Getting a sufficient amount of vitamin D is important for normal growth and development of bones and teeth, as well as improved resistance against certain diseases.
If your body doesn’t get enough vitamin D, you’re at risk of developing bone abnormalities such as soft bones (osteomalacia) or fragile bones (osteoporosis).
So where does it come from?
As little as 15 minutes under the sun (without sunscreen), 3 times a week enables your body to make enough vitamin D – but you need to be sensible. Exposing your skin to the sun increases your risks of skin cancer, so don't get sunburnt while you do it.
Vitamin D is found in small quantities in a few foods such as eggs, liver and fatty fish (North Sea salmon, herring and mackerel).
Some foods may also have vitamin D added. These include; margarine and fat spreads, some reduced-fat dairy products (eg, milk and yoghurt) and plant-based dairy substitutes (eg, soy drinks).
How much do I need?
If you do not have enough vitamin D you may not notice any symptoms at first, but you may get aches, cramps or pain in your muscles.
Although Australia has an abundance of sunlight - and therefore Vitamin D, in recent years, Vitamin D deficiency has been on the rise in Australia. It’s assumed that this is largely due to the success of SunSmart campaigns which have made people acutely aware of the dangers of excessive sun exposure.
A rough guide is that, as you increase in age, you should increase your vitamin D intake. This could come from increasing your intake of foods rich in Vitamin D or by taking Vitamin D supplements.
Keep in mind that too much Vitamin D can be harmful and could lead to serious health issues. Doctors can check your Vitamin D levels with a routine blood test and this should be done prior to and during the use of Vitamin D supplements.
This information is not intended to replace that provided by a registered healthcare professional. If you have questions relating to your personal health and Vitamin D, we recommend contacting your General Practitioner.