The vitamin D epidemic, why are we so low?

This is a question that I hear from patients every single day without fail at the moment. So much so, that I now routinely recommend that all of my patients get their vitamins D levels tested, regardless of how much time they spend outside.

Ask any GP and the will say that they are also seeing a high percentage of patients return low vitamin D levels. The question is WHY??

There are 2 answers here. The first and most logical answer is purely and simply that are not exposed to adequate sunlight to ensure Vitamin D is being converted under our skin. You see, vitamin D relies almost exclusively on sunlight and is found naturally in very few food sources, other than those that are fortified. However, due to our love of the sun and over exposure, consequently we as a nation have the highest rate of skin cancer in the world. This has prompted, quite rightly so, the “slip, slop slap” campaign and our subsequent fear of ANY sun exposure, leaving little room for safe, middle ground. This complete 180 turn around has left 85% of Geelong people tested, medically deficient in Vitamin D. (2010 study)

Add to this the fact that many of us work inside in air conditioning, working in class rooms, hospitals, offices, retail stores etc, with no outside time during the day. Optimal vitamin D conversion requires 20 minutes of constant sun exposure in the warmer months and more like 40 minutes in colder months. How many of you would do this every day?

The other, less discussed aspect, which is my personal theory, is that we are simply using more vitamin D in our bodies. As well as being extremely important for bone density, which most of us know, Vitamin D has a list of uses longer that my arm. It is a very strong anti oxidant, essential in pregnancy, important for male fertility and sperm health, essential for fat breakdown and gut function, mental health and probably most importantly, essential for the health of our immune system, in particularly auto immune conditions. Grandma had it right all along all of those years ago; giving a tablespoon of cod liver oil for the immune system, a good source of supplementary vitamin D. Thankfully now days we have vitamin D capsules smaller than a pea, and with no taste! In this day and age with constant exposure to environmental and food pollutants, poor diet, lifestyle factors such as high stress, smoking and drinking, high rates of infertility etc are all utilizing what little vitamin D we have stored up.

Regardless of your occupation, age, health, I urge everyone to discuss this with their GP or allied health professional.