You May Not Be Getting Enough Vitamin D, Even In Sunny Singapore

Are you at risk of a vitamin D deficiency? The health benefits of the "sunshine" vitamin go beyond its role in healthy bones and the truth is that many Singaporeans simply don't get enough

 Wearing sunscreen right now? Good for you. You’re effectively reducing your chances of developing skin cancer and preventing fine lines and wrinkles. And now for the bad news. That sunscreen could be risking your health in other ways.

You see, by diligently applying the SPF, you’re decreasing your body’s ability to make vitamin D. And that’s a problem, possibly even a deadly one. Read on to discover why vitamin D matters as much as it does, whether you’re at risk and what to do about it.

Why is vitamin D important?

Vitamin D is a fat-soluble vitamin that has been widely recognised for its role in maintaining bone and muscle strength. It is not a nutrient in the usual sense since, under normal conditions, it is supplied mainly by the skin.

It is essential for enhancing calcium absorption in the gut and regulating calcium and phosphate concentrations in the blood to promote normal bone mineralisation. If there is mild to moderate vitamin D deficiency, calcium absorption is impaired, which can result in decreased bone density and muscle strength, and an increase in fractures.

In fact, many studies have linked vitamin D deficiency with falls and fractures in both women and older men. If the deficiency is severe, osteomalacia (soft bones) can develop in adults as well as rickets (bone malformations such as bowed legs and knocked knees) in children.

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Yet there’s more – so much more. Much of the research has been led by Dr Michael Holick, Professor of Medicine, Physiology and Biophysics at the Boston University Medical Centre. He has studied vitamin D for more than 30 years, published widely in peer-reviewed journals and has recently published a book, The Vitamin D Solution.

He, along with many other researchers, including Associate Professor Rebecca Mason from the University of Sydney, agree that there is accumulating evidence that adequate vitamin D also protects against certain cancers, particularly breast, prostate and colon cancer, helps to prevent auto-immune diseases, such as multiple sclerosis, Type 1 diabetes, inflammatory bowel disease and rheumatoid arthritis, plus decreases the risk of high blood pressure, Type 2 diabetes, susceptibility to infection as well as reducing overall mortality including cardiovascular mortality.

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How much do we need?

The Recommended Dietary Intake (RDI) of vitamin D is 5 to 15 micrograms per day (200-600 International Units (IU)). The amount varies depending on age:

Children of all ages – 5mcg (200 IU)
Males and females 14 -50 yrs – 5mcg (200 IU)
Males and females 51-70 yrs – 10mcg (400 IU)
Males and females >70 yrs – 15mcg (600 IU)

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