Long periods in sun not necessary to get daily dose of vitamin D says Cancer Council Australia

Stock image.
Stock image.

If you believe you need long periods in the sun to get your daily dose of vitamin D, think again.

Experts say getting sufficient vitamin D for good health isn’t an issue for most Aussies during summer and sun protection should be the priority.

Cancer Council Australia’s Craig Sinclair says it only takes minutes of exposure to the sun on most days of the week to achieve adequate levels of vitamin D.

“That could literally be the minutes it takes for you to walk to the front door to the letterbox or to go grab something for lunch at midday,” Mr Sinclair said.

“This is because at this time of year the UV is very intense.

“There is very little disagreement in terms of what our public health advice is; and essentially that is if you are going to be spending time outdoors at this time of year when UV levels are what they are you should be making sure your sun protected.”

There have been multiple research studies linking vitamin D to numerous health benefits, including for multiple sclerosis and heart disease.

A recent Australian study linked vitamin D to improved brain power in middle-age women.

The observational study, published in the journal Maturitas, investigated the association between midlife vitamin D and cognition in Australian women over a 10 year period.

It used data involving 252 participants aged 55-67 from the Women’s Healthy Ageing Project.

It found that sufficient midlife vitamin D levels (more than 25 nanomoles per litre) were associated with improved aspects of executive function in ageing.

Executive function includes things like attention, cognitive inhibition and working memory.

“Women (aged 55-67 years) with vitamin D levels above 25nmol/L maintained better executive functioning in late-life, in particular improved cognitive flexibility, attention and psychomotor speed,” lead author Alicia Goodwill told the University of Melbourne publication Pursuit.

Given the modern lifestyles often involving long hours indoors at desks or watching TV, Dr Goodwill says it’s important people get enough vitamin D.

But even with protection most Australians will still receive adequate vitamin D from the sun, Mr Sinclair said.

“That’s because of the intensity of the the UV that we experience over the summer months,” he said.

“It’s people who live in institutional care or those who cover up for cultural reasons, particularly elderly people, need to have a discussion with their doctor around their vitamin D levels but for the rest of us we don’t need to worry about it.”