People living in Sweden suffer from such low vitamin D levels during winter that a pharmaceutical company in Stockholm has fitted its shop windows with special lamps that mimic daylight.
The lamps, which are activated when people stand in front of the windows, help stimulate production of the vitamin.
Yet, it is not only the Scandinavian nation that has a problem with Vitamin D deficiency. In some southern areas of Australia, Vitamin D insufficiency is an issue. In 2011-12 in Queensland, around 11% of Queenslanders were Vitamin D deficient – 6% in summer and 15% in winter. But does it matter? Just how important is this vitamin?
Vitamin D is important because it helps the body to absorb calcium from the foods we eat, as well supports strong bones and muscles. Like other vitamins, it contributes to overall good health.
Insufficient Vitamin D can lead to a bone deformity disease in children called rickets, and an increased risk of osteoporosis and fractures in adults. Some people are at higher risk of developing a Vitamin D deficiency, including people who have naturally darker skin tones, people who spend little time outdoors, the elderly, pregnant and breast-feeding women and people with certain medical conditions.
Few foods naturally contain Vitamin D. Fish, eggs and some types of mushrooms are the best natural sources, and there are also products that have been fortified with Vitamin D, such as milk and margarine. These foods provide a small amount of vitamin D as well as other important vitamins and minerals.
One of the best ways to get your daily dose is to enjoy the outdoors – just remember to be sun safe. Vitamin D forms when skin is exposed to the UVB radiation from sunlight. The UV index in Queensland is greater than 3 all year round, so a few minutes of exposure to the arms and hands on most days of the week will generate sufficient Vitamin D for the majority of people.
While you are at it, make it an opportunity to boost your physical activity levels and kill two birds with one stone. Physical activity guidelines suggest 150 to 300 minutes (2.5 – 5 hours) of moderate intensity activity per week, such as cycling or brisk walking. This activity can easily be broken down into shorter sessions.
If you have concerns you are not getting enough Vitamin D, speak with your doctor
Let there be light!