Sun-drenched Australians still in need of vitamin D supplementation

By RJ Whitehead

- Last updated on GMT

© iStock
© iStock

Related tags: Vitamin d supplementation, Vitamin d

Guidance by an independent British committee of experts that advises everyone to take the so-called “sunshine vitamin” whatever the weather has been well received in Australia, where up to 58% of people suffer from vitamin D deficiency in spite of its climate.

Complementary Medicines Australia, the country’s apex natural health body has welcomed last week’s report by Britain’s Scientific Advisory Commission on Nutrition which advised everyone over the age of one needs to consume daily supplements in order to protect bone and muscle health.

Limited amounts of vitamin D are found in foods such as oily fish, liver, eggs, milk and fortified cereals, but for most people the majority of their vitamin D is made from the action of sunlight on their skin.

Yet in a country where people are warned to protect themselves from the sun, many Australians do not receive sufficient vitamin D from casual exposure to its rays.

A responsible and preventative approach is to acknowledge that a large proportion of the population is vitamin D deficient and not just those at high risk​,” said Carl Gibson, chief executive of CMA. 

This is where vitamin D fortified foods and vitamin D supplements come into the disease prevention equation. More of us should be supplementing vitamin D as it is a cost-effective and easy approach to avoiding deficiencies​.”

The British guidance follows the publication in January of an article in Australian journal MJA InSight 2​ that encouraged proactive vitamin D supplementation, instead of testing for patients seen to be at risk of deficiency.

In it, Robyn Lucas, an epidemiologist with the Australian National University’s College of Medicine referred to “overtesting​” for vitamin D by doctors.

The [obvious question is], if you know your patient is at risk — sits in an office all day, or has other risk factors — why test them? Why not just supplement them​?” Prof Lucas asked.

While the frequency of vitamin D testing rose dramatically in Australia between 2000 and 2010, though, according to one study, increased testing did not translate into improved health outcomes.

Study author Steven Boyages of the Western Sydney Local Health District said: “It is increasingly recognised by most doctors that there is little utility in vitamin D testing in the majority of the population​.”

Indeed, Dr Boyages’ study found that only 4% of Australians suffered from moderate or severe vitamin D deficiency, suggesting that supplementation was sufficient for the rest of the population.

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