Why do we need Vitamin D?
Vitamin D helps to manage the amount of calcium and phosphate in the body. This is important for strong healthy bones, teeth, and muscles and to help our immune system to fight off illness and keep us healthy.
How do we get enough Vitamin D to stay healthy?
Our bodies make Vitamin D in the skin, whenever we are exposed to UV radiation from the sun. For most people in Aotearoa New Zealand it’s easy to get enough Vitamin D.
Short but frequent amounts of time exposed to the sun is the most effective way for the skin to make Vitamin D. Just 30 seconds to 3 minutes exposure of large areas (e.g., arms and legs) near the middle of the day, or small areas of the skin exposed for a little bit longer, is enough for your daily needs. After a few minutes of sun in a day, the skin stops making active Vitamin D. Staying in the sun longer will not boost Vitamin D levels but it does greatly increase the risk of sun damage.
Vitamin D is also found naturally in some foods particularly oily fish (like tuna, salmon, sardines and eel), liver, milk and egg yolks. It is also added to some foods (known as fortifying) like margarine, reduced fat dairy, non-dairy milks e.g. soy (check the labels to see if your food is fortified with Vitamin D). Vitamin D can also be taken as supplements.
How do we get enough Vitamin D without causing harm to our skin?
The best way to get our Vitamin D is by being active outdoors. This could include going for a walk, gardening, or taking a bike ride. Exercise also keeps our bones and muscles healthy and helps our immune system.
To protect our skin from sun damage and skin cancer, we should aways wear sunscreen whenever we are active outdoors.
Sunscreen helps to protect us from damage from the sun, but sunscreen does not totally block the sun. Studies have shown that our skin still makes enough Vitamin D when we wear sunscreen.
What if I don't get enough Vitamin D from the sun?
If you are not able to spend time outdoors during the day, or you wear clothing that covers all of your skin when you are outdoors you may not get enough Vitamin D from the sun. Talk to your doctor about whether you should take Vitamin D supplements
*Information on Vitamin D is provided in consultation with Dr Reiche on behalf of the NZ Dermatological Society*