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Why we need Vitamin D

health
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Our body is nature's greatest balancing act, but too little or too much of life's essential nutrients can be damaging to your to health.

One of the great essentials to our health is the sun, and this is where the balance has to be spot-on. It may be our best natural source of vitamin D but it's also the major cause of skin cancer.

So how do we get the former without the latter?

Unlike other vitamins, it's almost impossible to get an adequate amount of vitamin D solely from food sources, such as oily fish (e.g. sardines, herrings, mackerel) and egg yolks. The best source of vitamin D is through sufficient exposure to sunlight.

Vitamin D deficiency usually doesn't result in obvious symptoms, but without the important nutrient, we wouldn't be able to absorb enough calcium from food to make our bones strong and sturdy. This puts us at higher risk of osteoporosis.

Much research is being done on vitamin D and what insufficient levels mean for our health. Some studies even suggest that a vitamin D deficiency can lead to some serious health conditions, such as heart disease, autoimmune disease (e.g. rheumatoid arthritis or type 1 diabetes) and some cancers such as breast, bowel and prostate.

That's why we need to balance the risk of skin cancer caused by too much sun exposure with maintaining vitamin D levels.

Those who are at risk of vitamin D deficiency include:

  • people with naturally dark skin – they need more sun exposure compared with fair-skinned individuals
  • those who spend most of their time indoors during daylight hours (e.g. because of a chronic illness or disability, or because of working conditions)
  • older people, particularly those in residential homes.

If you believe you're at risk of a vitamin D deficiency, discuss it with your GP, who may suggest tests and, if suitable, taking a vitamin D supplement.

Health experts also advise that solariums should never be used to boost vitamin D levels, as the risk of skin cancer through the greater exposure to UV rays is very high.

This article was supplied by Australia's leading retirement website YourLifeChoices

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