Australian women aren't considering their bone health with more than a third (35.1%) unaware of the benefits of vitamin D, new research has found.
Research conducted on behalf of Ostelin has found more than half (57%) of females aged 35 - 44 years old have never considered their bone health, and at a national level, more than half of all Australian women (53.5%) have never had their vitamin D levels tested. Worryingly, over 70 percent (72%) of young females aged 18 - 34 years are unaware of the role vitamin D plays for their bodies.
The findings have prompted calls from health experts, urging the more than a third (35.1%) of Australians who do not know that vitamin D is important for lifelong bone health, to consider their vitamin D intake as we head into the cooler months; a time typically associated with wrapping up and staying indoors.
Other insights from the research also found:
More than half (59.1%) of Australian parents have never considered the bone health of their children
More than a third (34.6%) of parents always ensure their kids are fully protected from the sun (with sunscreen, a hat, long sleeves and pants)
More than a third (34.7%) of Australian parents are applying sun protection before long car trips
Less than half (45.9%) of parents are aware of Vitamin D insufficiency in children
Almost half (44%, Q27) are not confident in taking a Vitamin D supplement
A staggering 85% of Australians are unsure of the efficacy of a Vitamin D supplement for infants
Question: What message do you hope to spread for National Vitamin D Awareness Day?
Dr Denise Furness: To create awareness of the importance of vitamin D and that many Australians are low in vitamin D, which can lead to an increased risk of bone loss, immune disorders and overall impact our health and mental wellbeing.
Question: What are the signs associated with low vitamin D?
Dr Denise Furness: Because vitamin D is involved in so many different functions in the body there are a lot of signs and symptoms that can be associated with vitamin D deficiency. These symptoms include recurrent infections, auto-immune disorders, low mood and depression, bone or muscle pain, even difficulty losing weight can be linked to vitamin D. However, all these signs and symptoms can be caused by many different factors and often have multiple causes, so it's important to check your overall health as well as your vitamin D levels.
Question: What are the main benefits of vitamin D?
Dr Denise Furness: Vitamin D is more like a hormone than a vitamin because it regulates and directs many processes in the body. Vitamin D is essential for calcium absorption supporting skeletal development and maintenance, as well as regulating our immune system and the production of neurotransmitters that control our mood and brain function.
Question: Are you surprised that more than 50% of women have never had their vitamin D levels checked?
Dr Denise Furness: I am surprised because I am always informing patients of the importance of vitamin D and how our indoor lifestyles are causing so many of us to be deficient in this important vitamin. I think many people assume they have adequate levels because we live in a hot and sunny climate, but even those who do spend time outdoors generally cover up, so they aren't exposing their skin to the sun which is needed for our bodies to make vitamin D.
Question: How can we have our vitamin D levels checked, today?
Dr Denise Furness: Your doctor or health care practitioner can undertake a vitamin D test for you. It's a simple blood test and if you are at risk for vitamin D deficiency then it will be covered by Medicare. People who have darker skin, or who are always covered up or stay indoors all the time are classified as at-risk groups.
Question: What foods contain vitamin D?
Dr Denise Furness: Vitamin D is a fat-soluble vitamin and can be found in fatty or oily food such as, oily fish like salmon or tuna and dairy foods including cheese and milk.
Question: How can we boost our vitamin D intake, especially during winter?
Dr Denise Furness: Some simple and easy ways to up your intake include spending more time outdoors, eat oily fish that contains some vitamin D or vitamin enriched foods like mushrooms. For those in the southern states where there isn't much sun in winter a supplement may be necessary to boost your vitamin D levels.
Interview by Brooke Hunter
Photo by Toa Heftiba on Unsplash