A little ray of sunshine
Following yesterday's red skin alert, a few readers emailed in with some clever questions about the sun as a crucial source of vitamin D and how a little splash of sun is not only good for us, but essential.
How much vitamin D do we need? And how do we soak it up this summer without risking premature wrinkles and worse? These are the stumpers. So we referred to the experts...
It turns out Vitamin D is the reason that your parents may have pushed regular spoonfuls of cod liver oil past your pursed lips when you were too tiny to fight back (Phew. That soothes some emotional scarring). Vital for the maintenance of healthy, hardy bones and normal neuromuscular function, vitamin D is found in some foods, such as oily fish, meat, eggs and fortified margarine, but its most potent natural source is UV radiation. Yep, your skin's fiercest foe can also be a friend.
But, despite some media buzz and pubic misconception about the sun and vitamin D, experts warn that, though a lack of vitamin D can be serious, there's still no basis for sun baking or skipping sunscreen. "Sensible sun protection does not put people at risk of vitamin D deficiency," says Professor Ian Olver, CEO of The Cancer Council Australia, in published guidelines set by The Cancer Council, Osteoperosis Australia, The Australasian College of Dermatologists and the Australian and New Zealand Bone and Mineral Society. "But," he highlights, "there are times when it's actually important to leave your hat and sunscreen off."
Like when? "In summer, most Australians get adequate vitamin D levels in just a few minutes through the sun exposure they receive during typical day-to-day activities," says Dr Olver. Either side of the peak UV period of the day is the safe window in which to bare your skin minus sunscreen – an early morning walk or stroll late on a daylight savings afternoon is perfect. The rest of the time, broad spectrum SPF remains the official order of every day.
"It's important to stress that the majority of Australians have sufficient levels of vitamin D," adds Professor Peter Ebling, Medical Director of Osteoperosis Australia. "However, those likely to be at risk of vitamin D deficiency include people with very dark skin, people who are housebound or in institutionalised care, women who wear concealing clothing for cultural purposes, and breastfed babies of vitamin D-deficient women."
Think that might be you? Then seek your doctor, not a sun tan. A simple blood test can check your levels and supplements are the most effective, easy and non cancer-tempting fix, stress the experts.
So there you have it. Vitamin D is not an excuse for sun baking this summer. Slip, slop and absolutely slap…