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Are we avoiding the sun altogether?

Updated: Mar 4, 2019

ʽVitamin D deficiency strikes one-third of Australiansʼ

-(Study of 11,000 finds emerging major public health issue, says Professor Rob Daly.)

According to the research done in this study (see full article here ) as well as by SunSmart and the Cancer Council, many Australians do not get enough Vitamin D.  Vitamin D is made naturally in the skin when we are exposed to sunlight.  As Australians have been made well aware of, the sun can (among other things) cause cataracts, skin damage, or worse; fatal skin cancers.  So where do we draw the line?   And what do we do to make sure we are getting enough of it?

Why is Vitamin D so Necessary?

For All Of Us

Vitamin D regulates the body’s balance of calcium and phosphorus and can promote better absorption. Vitamin D can also help to decrease inflammation of gums which is associated with periodontal (gum) disease*.

For Mums-to-Be

Vitamin D plays an important role in the normal development of teeth. How this works in pregnancy to develop our two different sets of teeth: (Baby and Adult teeth).

  • The baby or Primary teeth start to develop between the sixth and eighth week (in utero) of pregnancy. These Primary teeth don’t begin to erupt from the gums until a child reaches approximately six months of age. Parents will recognize this as teething (AKA sleep-deprivation time for mum and dad).

  • Permanent teeth form in the twentieth week of pregnancy. These times are critical, and if teeth have not begun to develop by this point, the child may not develop their “Adult teeth” later down the track. If mum’s vitamin D (and calcium) levels are deficient when this stage of development begins, then the teeth don’t form normally.

“It is clear from the results of our study that, despite an abundance of vitamin D rich sunlight, Australians are not immune from this issue,” ¹

How much sun is too much sun?

Dermatologists, GP’s and health advisers in general have scared us out of the sun (for good reason mostly) yet skin manufactures vitamin D in response to ultraviolet (UV) light: therefore perhaps the simplest solution to preventing or treating Vitamin D deficiency is 5-10 minutes of unprotected (no sunscreen etc…) UV exposure from the sun  2-3 times per week.

Does sunscreen interfere with Vitamin D production?

I read through a number of articles and what I can only infer is that YES IT DOES.  It acts as a screen against UV rays: the very thing that causes the production of Vitamin D in the skin.  Now if you are out on a boat or gardening for a few hours, sunscreen is your best friend. Heck, it’s your soulmate.

“sunscreen use should not put people at risk of vitamin D deficiency. When sunscreen is tested in lab conditions it has been shown to decrease vitamin D production, however regular use in real life has been shown to have little effect on vitamin D levels. This is probably because those people who use more sunscreen, spend more time in the sun, so naturally will have higher vitamin D levels.” -*²

(I’m confused by that statement – what about people who just want to go out for 15 minutes 3 times a week specifically to increase Vitamin D production? )

“The sun’s ultraviolet (UV) radiation is both a major cause of skin cancer and the best natural source of vitamin D. It is important to take a balanced approach to sun exposure which helps with vitamin D levels, while minimising the risk of skin cancer with appropriate sun protection measures.”*¹

I would say most of Australia could heed this advice – but what advice is that exactly? Less is more. After about 15 minutes you don’t continue to produce Vitamin D anyway and now the disadvantages (skin damage etc…) outweigh the advantages. Get in, get out.

Less Confusing, Alternative Methods of Obtaining Vitamin D.

A healthy diet is essential for healthy teeth.  Below are just some of the foods that contain vitamin D as well as calcium, and phosphorus. *³


foods such as cheese and yoghurt, brown rice, oranges, cabbage, beans, broccoli, salmon, peas.

Vitamin D

Natural sunlight, dairy products, eggs, some cereals, oily fish (tuna, sardines etc).


Cereals, wheat germ, soya beans, almonds and other nuts, meat, poultry, fish, eggs, grapes, citrus fruit, cucumbers, tomatoes.

So to fully take advantage of Vitamin D production and cover all of my bases,  I am going to take a very short picnic lunch of ; cheese, egg,and/or tuna fish sandwiches, washed down with a tall glass of milk. Out in the sun, and all in under 15 minutes.  No sunscreen, just sunglasses. Oh, and an esky. Nobody likes warm tuna fish sandwiches.

*1 Vitamin D and UV Radiation (2014) retrieved from

*2 American Academy of Periodontology, 2008, ‘Nutrition and Your Oral Health’ in Australian Dental Association (ADA), accessed 13 July 2010 from

*3 Calvo MS, Whiting SJ, Barton CN. Vitamin D fortification in the United States and Canada: current status and data needs. American Journal of Clinical Nutrition 2004; 80(suppl) 1710S–16S.

*4 Vitamin D Deficiency Strikes One Third of Australians  (2015) retrieved from


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