Huge Vitamin D deficiencies a “cause for concern” in Australia

Posted by AFN Staff Writers on 18th January 2012

Almost one-third of adults over the age of 25 have a Vitamin D deficiency, a new study from the University of Melbourne has found.

The study involved 11,218 Australians. The overall prevalence of vitamin D deficiency was 31 per cent, with Australian women being more commonly affected (39 per cent, in contrast with 23 per cent in Australian men, overall).

University of Melbourne’s Professor of Medicine, and study author, Professor Peter Ebeling say the findings show that government-supported health policy strategies are needed to improve Vitamin D awareness.

Vitamin D is necessary for optimal health as it may help prevent falls in the elderly and, together with calcium, appears to prevent fractures due to osteoporosis, including hip fractures. Earlier work from the University of Melbourne has also shown that low vitamin D levels are associated with an increased risk of developing type 2 diabetes.

Dietary sources of Vitamin D include fatty fish species such as salmon, mackerel, tuna, sardines, as well as egg, and fish liver oils.

The study found, when evaluated by season and latitude, that 42 per cent of women and 27 per cent of men in southern Australia during summer/autumn had deficient levels. This increased to 58 per cent and 35 per cent in women and men, respectively, during winter/spring.

Professor Ebeling said, “Vitamin D deficiency is recognised as a global public health problem but the population-based prevalence of deficiency and its reach in Australia has never previously been properly examined.”

He said, “The high prevalence of Vitamin D deficiency in our study may also be associated with increasing prevalence of obesity in Australia. Like many developed countries, Australia has experienced an increase in the prevalence of overweight and obesity over the past 20 years. This is likely to be caused by both decreased sun exposure from limited mobility and/or reduced outdoor physical activity.”

Those at greatest risk for vitamin D deficiency included women, the elderly, obese, those not meeting the current physical activity guidelines of more than two and a half hours a week, and those of non-European descent. Importantly, vitamin D deficiency was more common in older and elderly women, the ones most at risk of fractures and falls, both of which are associated with vitamin D deficiency.