Getting enough vitamin D over winter

In Tasmania in winter it is very difficult for our bodies to make enough vitamin D because there is less sunlight, UV levels are low and we cover up to keep warm. Even people who spend a lot of time outside in winter can have low vitamin D.

You need vitamin D for healthy bones and muscles and overall good health. Getting enough vitamin D will help prevent osteoporosis and rickets. In summer around one third of Tasmanian teens and adults do not have enough vitamin D and in winter and spring, around two thirds of Tasmanian teens and adults have low vitamin D levels.

Who is at risk of low vitamin D?

  • People with naturally very dark skin.
  • People with little or no sun exposure:
    –  those in institutions, hospitals or housebound for long periods
    –  those who always wear concealing clothing
    –  those who deliberately avoid the sun.
  • People overweight or obese
  • Babies of vitamin D deficient mothers

Sunlight (UV light) is the best source of vitamin D. Your body produces vitamin D when your skin is exposed to UVB in sunlight. How much vitamin D your body makes depends on skin type, amount of skin exposed, UV level, time in the sun, and individual lifestyle and health factors.  Some foods such as oily fish, eggs and mushrooms contain small amounts of vitamin D and some milk and soy products have vitamin D added however as food only has a small amount of vitamin D, it is difficult to get enough from diet alone.

How to get enough vitamin D

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• AVOID SUNBURN – it increases your risk of skin cancer

• You need sunlight on as much skin as possible, at least hands and arms

• Be outdoors and active every day to help make vitamin D

• During summer avoid the middle of the day when UV levels are highest

• When UV is 3 or above protect your skin and eyes from the sun if you are outside for longer periods

• March and October are good time to get some extra sun to boost vitamin D levels

For further information, download our Vitamin D in Tasmania information sheet.