Vitamin D is important for bones, muscles and overall health. It is made in our bodies through a series of processes that start when our skin is exposed to the sun’s ultraviolet (UV) radiation.

Some Victorians are at risk of low vitamin D, particularly those with naturally very dark skin and those with little sun exposure. A balanced approach is required to ensure some sun exposure for vitamin D while minimising the risk of skin cancer.

Here are some tips to help you get enough vitamin D.

  1. Take a balanced approach to sun exposure. UV radiation from the sun is the best natural source of vitamin D, but too much sun exposure can increase your risk of skin cancer.

  2. From May to August in Victoria, get two to three hours of midday sun exposure per week. In Victoria, UV levels fall below three from May to August. At this time, most people need two to three hours of midday winter sun exposure to the face, arms, hands (or equivalent area of skin) over the course of a week. People with naturally very dark skin may require three to six times this amount of sun.

  3. From September to April in Victoria, get a few minutes of mid-morning or mid-afternoon sun exposure each day. In Victoria, UV levels reach three and above for much of the day from September to April, and sun protection is required. At this time, most people need just a few minutes of mid-morning or mid-afternoon sun exposure to the face, arms, hands (or equivalent area of skin). People with naturally very dark skin, may require three to six times this amount of sun.

  4. Use a combination of sun protection measures between September and April, when UV levels are three and above. Use a combination of clothing, sunscreen, hats, shade and sunglasses. Sunscreen use should not put you at risk of vitamin D deficiency.

  5. Never use a solarium to increase vitamin D. A solarium gives off dangerous UV radiation, increasing the risk of skin cancer.

  6. Speak to your doctor if you are at risk of low vitamin D. You might be at risk of low vitamin D if you have naturally very dark skin, get little or no sun exposure, have a medical condition that affects vitamin D metabolism, or take certain medications (for example, those that increase the breakdown of vitamin D). Breastfed babies who fall into the above categories, or have mothers with low vitamin D, can also be at risk.

  7. Exercise daily. Regular exercise assists with production of vitamin D.

  8. Eat enough calcium. Vitamin D and calcium work together to make your bones strong. Make sure you get enough calcium by including a selection of dairy products, leafy vegetables, fish, tofu, Brazil nuts and almonds in your diet.

  9. Eat foods rich in vitamin D. Good sources include eggs, liver, and fatty fish such as mackerel, herring and salmon. Some margarines and low-fat milks have added vitamin D. Food, however, only makes a small contribution (approximately 10 per cent) to the body's overall vitamin D levels and it is difficult to get enough vitamin D from diet alone.

  10. Speak to your doctor before taking supplements. Vitamin D supplements may be helpful for some people, but you should speak with your doctor first and take them strictly as directed.
References
  • Calcium – consumer guide, 2012, Osteoporosis Australia. More information here. More information here.
  • Vitamin D – consumer guide, 2012, Osteoporosis Australia. More information here. More information here.
  • Low vitamin D in Victoria: key health messages for doctors, nurses and allied health, 2012, SunSmart. More information here. More information here.
  • How much sun is enough?, 2012, Cancer Council Australia. More information here. More information here.
  • Multilingual information sheets, SunSmart. More information here. More information here.
  • Boyages S, Bilinski K, 2012, ‘Seasonal reduction in vitamin D level persists into spring in NSW Australia: implications for monitoring and replacement therapy’, Clinical Endocrinology, vol. 77, no. 4, pp. 515–523. More information here. More information here.

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This page has been produced in consultation with and approved by: Department of Health and Human Services - RHP&R - Office of the Chief Health Officer

Last updated: July 2014

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Content on this website is provided for education and information purposes only. Information about a therapy, service, product or treatment does not imply endorsement and is not intended to replace advice from your doctor or other registered health professional. Content has been prepared for Victorian residents and wider Australian audiences, and was accurate at the time of publication. Readers should note that, over time, currency and completeness of the information may change. All users are urged to always seek advice from a registered health care professional for diagnosis and answers to their medical questions.