Generally known as the sunshine vitamin, vitamin D is most commonly absorbed into the body through the skin from the sun’s rays, though increased awareness of the threat of skin cancers has led to more people covering up.
“It is no longer acceptable to assume that Australians receive adequate vitamin D from casual exposure to sunlight,” said Carl Gibson, chief executive of Complementary Medicines Australia, which represents the natural nutrition industry.
“A responsible approach is to acknowledge that a large proportion of the population is vitamin D deficient and not just those at high risk. This is where vitamin D fortified foods and supplements come into the disease prevention equation.”
More Australians should be supplementing vitamin D as a simple and cost-effective approach to avoiding deficiencies, Gibson added.
In the MJA InSight article, a leading epidemiologist argued that a “hard-core group of general practitioners continue to over-test” for vitamin D.
Yet Robyn Lucas, of the Australian National University’s College of Medicine, Biology and Environment, added that the “craziness” about vitamin D had now settled.
“Everyone got very excited for a while and blamed vitamin D for everything”, she said. “Reality has hit, however, and the vitamin D bubble has burst.”
Professor Lucas cited an MJA article that revealed that the frequency of vitamin D testing had risen “dramatically” in Australia between 2000 and 2010, though this had not translated into improved health outcomes.
This testing corresponded to a significant cost to the healthcare system even though vitamin D deficiency at its most severe was only found to be present in around 4% of the population, according to Steven Boyages of the the Western Sydney Local Health District, the cited article’s author.
Gibson said: “Australia’s population is ageing and increasingly challenged by chronic health conditions. Preventive health is an essential element of the healthcare system and necessary to alleviating pressure on the government’s health budget.”