It’s the sunshine vitamin!
Vitamin D3 is often called the sunshine vitamin because our best source of it is via the sun. However, it’s not always possible to receive optimum levels in this way especially as we go through this midlife transition known as peri/menopause. Let me explain.
As we enter midlife our bone health becomes ever more important. Crucial even. If you’re a regular reader here you no doubt know a lot of changes occur in our bodies during perimenopause and as we pass through to post-menopause. One of the things we emerge with is a higher risk of osteoporosis, a condition which can make our bones brittle.
So Vitamin D is important to us because it’s well-known for supporting bone health, and this is exactly why we’ve included it in 55+. We also added it as it plays a role in immunity, mood, sleep and joint health.
It’s common knowledge that humans get their best levels of vitamin D from sunshine. Very few foods serve up vitamin D and when they do it’s often only in small amounts.
The NZ Nutrition Foundation tells us that concern about vitamin D deficiency has re-emerged in New Zealand and Australia “as a result of health messages to reduce sun exposure and encouragement to use ultraviolet (UV) sunscreens.”
This doesn’t mean the sunscreen message should ever be disregarded because skin cancers and melanoma are the risks of excessive sun exposure. However, being vigilant about this can lessen our time in the sun leading to less production of vitamin D in our bodies.
Bottom line: if you don’t get enough Vitamin D you can develop bone weakness, bone and joint pain and an increased risk of fracture.
Vitamin D Deficiency
The Australian Department of Health note vitamin D is essential for skeletal health as it regulates calcium and phosphate metabolism. However, the Australian Health Survey 2011-12 (ABS 2014b) found over 30% of Australian adults have mild, moderate or severe deficiency. As we all know Australia’s a large country so differences were seen across geographical areas with vitamin D levels lower in major cities than in other parts. In New Zealand, the Ministry of Health tells us that approximately 5% of adult Kiwis are deficient in vitamin D and 27% more have below the recommended blood level (Adult Nutrition Survey 2008/2009).
Ideally, we need about thirty minutes of sun exposure (without sunscreen) on the face, legs or back at least twice a week for vitamin D synthesis.
If you feel you need a vitamin D test you will need to see your GP.
Vitamin D Is A Hormone
Vitamin D is essential because it supports the absorption of calcium in our body helping both bone health and muscle function. It’s unique because it’s actually a hormone and can work with other hormones to increase our calcium levels.
The recommended form of Vitamin D is D3 (cholecalciferol) which is what we’ve used in 55+. It’s the same form of Vitamin D that our body makes from sunlight and is derived from the fat in sheeps wool. No animals are harmed in this process. 😊
Foods That Contain Vitamin D:
- oily fish like salmon, tuna and sardines
- mushrooms grown in the sunshine
- whole or non-fat milk and milk products
- egg yolks
Common Foods That Have Vitamin D Added:
- margarine and similar spreads
- some reduced-fat dairy products (milk, dried milk and yoghurt)
- plant-based dairy substitutes (soy drinks)
- liquid meal replacements.
In light of the increase of vitamin D deficiency throughout Australia, the federal government introduced mandatory fortification of vitamins and minerals such as vitamin D in certain foods like edible oil spreads as indicated in the: Australian Standard 2.4.2.
Risk Factors For Deficiency
- Having naturally very dark skin. This includes people from Africa, the Indian subcontinent and the Middle East.
- The skin not being regularly exposed to sunlight; for example:
- avoiding the sun because you have a high risk of skin cancer or are on photosensitising medications (these are medicines that make your skin more sensitive to the sun – your pharmacist or doctor will have advised you)
- regularly wearing clothing that covers a lot of skin (i.e veils or other clothing covering your legs, arms and face)
- not going outside.
- If you live in the South Island of New Zealand (especially south of Nelson-Marlborough) and get little time outdoors in the middle of the day between May and August, you may be at risk of vitamin D deficiency in spring.
- If you have liver or kidney disease or are on certain medications that affect vitamin D levels, you may be at risk of vitamin D deficiency.
How Much Vitamin D Do We Need?
|Age (years)||AI* Vitamin D (µg/day)|
Source: NZ Nutrition Foundation
The Medical Journal of Australia Vitamin D and health in adults in Australia and New Zealand: a position statement:
Feel you need some vitamin D? Get your 55+ now. Click here.
We need to follow the recommendations and guidelines from the appropriate bodies in these cases so our thanks go to:
- NZ Nutrition Foundation
- NZ Ministry of Health
- Australian Government Department Of Health
- The Australian Bureau of Statistics
- The Medical Journal of Australia