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Sun in small doses is enough

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January 03, 2018

Experts say getting sufficient vitamin D for good health is not an issue for most Aussies during summer and sun protection should be the priority.

If you think you need long periods in the sun to get your daily dose of vitamin D, think again.

Experts say getting sufficient vitamin D for good health is not an issue for most Aussies during summer and sun protection should be the priority.

Cancer Council Australia’s Craig Sinclair said it only took minutes of exposure to the sun on most days to achieve adequate levels of vitamin D.

‘‘That could literally be the minutes it takes for you to walk to the front door, to the letterbox or to go grab something for lunch at midday,’’ Mr Sinclair said.

This is because at this time of year the UV is very intense.

‘‘There is very little disagreement in terms of what our public health advice is; and essentially that is if you are going to be spending time outdoors at this time of year when UV levels are what they are, you should be making sure you’re sun protected,’’ Mr Sinclair said.

There have been multiple research studies linking vitamin D to many health benefits, including for multiple sclerosis and heart disease.

A recent Australian study linked vitamin D to improved brain power in middle-aged women.

The observational study, published in the journal Maturitas, investigated the association between mid-life vitamin D and cognition in Australian women during a 10-year period.

It used data involving 252 participants aged 55 to 67 from the Women’s Healthy Ageing Project.

It found sufficient mid-life vitamin D levels (more than 25 nanomoles a litre) were associated with improved aspects of executive function in ageing.

Executive function includes things like attention, cognitive inhibition and working memory.

‘‘Women (age range 55 to 67) with vitamin D levels above 25nmol/litre maintained better executive functioning in late-life, in particular improved cognitive flexibility, attention and psychomotor speed,’’ lead author Alicia Goodwill told University of Melbourne publication Pursuit.

Given that modern lifestyles often involve long hours indoors at desks or watching television, Dr Goodwill said it was important people got enough vitamin D.

But even with protection most Australians would still receive adequate vitamin D, Mr Sinclair said.

‘‘That’s because of the intensity of the UV that we experience over the summer months,’’ he said.

‘‘It’s people who live in institutional care or those who cover up for cultural reasons, particularly elderly people, (who) need to have a discussion with their doctor around their vitamin D levels but for the rest of us we don’t need to worry about it.’’

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