Officially the shortest day fell on June 21 this year. This is when the sun is as far north as it’s going to go, meaning less sunshine hours for us here in New Zealand…all a little depressing really. In saying that it does mean that we are over the hump and heading toward those warmer, longer summer days.
However these shorter days also means reduced sunshine hours and as people tend to cover up, stay indoors to keep warm they are less exposed to the sun and therefore can be at risk of becoming vitamin D deficient without even knowing it. Being deficient in Vitamin D can have a significant impact on your health. According to the Ministry of Health around 5% of Kiwi adults are Vitamin D deficient. This percentage peaks to about 12% during August, September and October and reflects that fact that there are fewer sunlight hours and less exposure to sun during the winter months and a gradual loss of vitamin D levels over the summer months. In summer, because of the risk of sunburn and skin cancer we are all aware of the need to ‘slip, slop and slap’ but this raises another question – is the application of sunscreen inhibiting our ability to produce Vitamin D?
Because our bodies produce Vitamin D whenever we get sun on our skin it has often been known as the ‘sunshine vitamin.’ Vitamin D functions as a hormone and is crucial for bone and teeth health, as well as calcium absorption. Studies have shown that Vitamin D may help prevent or help treat a wide range of health issues including; rickets in children and osteomalacia in adults (a softening of the bones). A lack of Vitamin D has also been linked to non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, prostate cancer, breast cancer, colon cancer, elevated blood pressure, heart disease, multiple sclerosis, ovarian cancer, psoriasis, diabetes, tooth decay, tuberculosis, and seasonal affective disorder or SAD.
It is estimated that 90% of our Vitamin D requirement comes directly from sunlight (ultraviolet light or UV), which penetrates the skin and activates pre-vitamin D into vitamin D (through reactions in the skin, liver and kidneys). Where we live, the season, the amount of time spent outdoors, the use of sunscreen, skin pigmentation, age, weight, and digestive health are all factors that influence the body’s ability to produce and absorb vitamin D. In fact the region where we live here in New Zealand has an impact on Vitamin D levels – for those living in south of the South Island is likely that the Vitamin D deficiency is around 18% during August, September and October.
Did you know that you can’t make Vitamin D by sitting inside a sunny window – UVB waves do not pass through glass.
Vitamin D manufactured by the skin is normally much greater than the amounts obtained from food. However because of the limited ability to get Vitamin D in the winter months through sunlight supplementation via food or other sources may be required to ensure adequate doses of the vitamin are obtained. Several foods contain small amounts of vitamin D including oily fish such as salmon, tuna or sardines, milk and milk products and eggs. There are are also other foods that have been fortified with Vitamin D including margarines or spreads and some milks and yoghurts.
An alternative source is through a reputable health supplement such as fish oil or better still cod liver oil. Cod liver oil is the fish oil that started it all and those old enough to remember will probably cringe at the thought of getting a daily dose of cod liver oil from their nanna! Cringe no more as cod liver oil has come a long way from the days when the oil was fermented and probably rancid. Cod liver oil naturally contains a certain levels of Vitamin D. Many brands add Vitamin D3, or what is known as cholecalciferol, which is the natural form of vitamin D and is best absorbed and utilized by the body. Fish oil or omega-3 provides a safe, easy, and reliable way to ensure adequate vitamin D levels are maintained, particularly in winter months.
By John Buntain, Natural Meds
We also stock a range of other quality Vitamin D supplements.
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