New research shows vitamin D deﬁciency is rife in sunny Australia, prompting dietitians to encourage Aussies to couple safe-sun exposure with a healthy dose of nutrientrich foods containing vitamin D.
The research builds on ﬁndings from the Australian Health Survey that found about one in four Australian adults are vitamin D deﬁcient, with the highest rates of deﬁciency in people living in southern states.
The Curtin University research was presented at the Dietitians Association of Australia’s National Conference in Hobart last week. Researcher Rachel Cheang said vitamin D deﬁciency was highest in Victoria (31.1 per cent) and the ACT (28.5 per cent), and was much less common in northern states like Queensland (11.5 per cent) and the Northern Territory (13.1 per cent). Most people rely on sun exposure to meet their recommended levels of vitamin D, which is made when the sun’s UV rays hit the skin.
But Ms Cheang said we are getting less sunlight than we used to, largely because we spending less time outdoors than our ancestors did. But dietary sources of vitamin D can help compensate for this. “If you struggle to get enough sun exposure during the day, especially over winter, try to eat healthy, whole foods that contain vitamin D. Foods like oily ﬁ sh (such as salmon, tuna and mackerel), meat, eggs, some dairy foods and mushrooms contain vitamin D and give us a host of other important nutrients,” Ms Cheang said.
The sunshine vitamin strengthens bones by helping calcium absorption, and may also be important for immunity against bacteria and viruses. People who get too little vitamin D may develop soft, thin and brittle bones known as rickets in children and osteomalacia in adults, causing bone pain and muscle weakness.
Vitamin D content of common foods:
Fish: Oily ﬁsh, such as salmon and tuna, is the best source of vitamin D. And new research into white ﬁsh (barramundi, basa, hoki and king dory), by Eleanor Dunlop from Curtin University, shows a 100 g serve of cooked white ﬁsh provides about half (43–60 per cent) of the adequate intake of vitamin D for Australians aged 1–50 years (5ìg).
Eggs: Two large cooked eggs can provide the daily adequate intake of vitamin D for people aged 1 to 50 years (5ìg), according to Ms Dunlop’s research. Eggs are nutrientdense, providing a host of other important nutrients like selenium and folate. And our Dietary Guidelines advise that Aussies can enjoy eggs every day.
Mushrooms: If you add a large handful of mushrooms to your meal, you’ll get a signiﬁcant amount of vitamin D, especially if the mushrooms have been exposed to sunlight during production (look out for Vitamin D mushrooms in grocery stores). A serve of mushrooms is a serve in the right direction towards getting in enough vegetables — something most Aussies need to boost.
Milk: Some cows’ milk has been fortiﬁ ed with vitamin D, so look for these brands if you’re at risk of vitamin D deﬁciency and want an additional way to boost your dietary intake. For example, a 250 ml glass can provide about 1.25ìg (just over 10 per cent of the daily adequate intake for people aged 1 to 50 years).
Do you or anyone you know suffer from this deficiency?