The Role of Vitamin D in Maintaining Bone Health
When you think of healthy bones, most people consider Calcium as the most important nutrient. However, Vitamin D is just as essential for strong bones and muscles, because it assists in the absorption of Calcium. Without it, bones become more fragile and there is an increased risk of fractures. This is of particular concern for our elderly population who are prone to falls because of the decreased muscular strength that happens with age. With around 30% of Australians suffering from Vitamin D deficiency, this can lead to a higher risk of Osteoporosis later in life and an overall weakness of bones which can lead to severe injury.
Vitamin D and the Sun
Unlike other vitamins, your body can create its own vitamin D using the sunlight. Once the ultraviolet B (UVB) light from the sun is absorbed into the skin, it is then converted into Vitamin D easily. This is the most common way to receive adequate levels of this essential vitamin, especially for those who have restricted or imbalanced diets.
While many Australians do get adequate sun exposure during the summer time, there are some people who increase their risk of becoming deficient in vitamin D. People who are restricted to their homes or bedridden need to carefully moderate their vitamin D levels to ensure they obtain adequate amounts. Winter time is a common period for vitamin D levels to become depleted. Furthermore, it is recommended that people raise their vitamin D intake once over the age of 70, due to our body’s natural degradation of bone minerals.
Vitamin D can be obtained from specific food sources which include; omega-3 rich fish (i.e. salmon or tuna) liver and eggs. As these foods aren’t commonly consumed on a daily basis, supplementation may be needed if adequate levels cannot be reached from diet and/or sun exposure.
We all know that excess sun exposure is dangerous and with the high risk of skin cancer in Australia, this needs to be carefully moderated. In conjunction with Osteoporosis Australia, Palm Lake Care has created the map above that indicates the level of sun exposure per day for individuals in different areas of Australia. As different regions have different levels of sunlight and sun strength, this guide helps remind you that a quick stroll through the garden in the sunshine each day may be one small thing to help maintain your bone health. Winter time may make this more difficult, but knowing the amount of time per day you should be exposed to the sunlight may make it easier to meet your daily requirements.
As with anything, the best thing to do is to find out your requirements and try to meet, not exceed these. You can find more information by checking out the Australian Dietary Guidelines or consult your general practitioner.