Vitamin D from the Sun, Food and Supplements

vitamin d deficiency in winter

Did you know that around 1 in 4 adult Aussies are deficient in vitamin D.  These rates are higher in winter, particularly for Aussies living in the south eastern areas of Australia with nearly 1 in 2 people having vitamin D deficiency.  We can get some vitamin D from food but the main source is from the sun.  Vitamin D supplements, available at the pharmacy, can also help those who have vitamin D deficiency.


Food sources of Vitamin D

Food contributes only a small amount of vitamin D to our body’s needs.  The main source is from skin exposure to the sun.  Below are 6 sources of vitamin D that we can get from our diet.



How much sun is needed?

The amount of sun required varies depending on:

  1. where you live
  2. the season
  3. time of day
  4. you skin colour
  5. amount of skin exposed


Current guidelines recommend people with moderately fair-skin to walk outdoors for most days for 6-7 minutes mid-morning or mid-afternoon with bare arms in summer, and 7-40 minutes at noon with as much bare skin as tolerable in winter.  People with darker skin and people living further from the equator require longer sun exposure.


However, there is a balance between getting enough vitamin D and getting too much sun which can increase your risk of skin cancer.  The Cancer Council recommends that most Aussies need sun protection when the UV index is 3 or above.


Vitamin D Supplements

If unsure whether you have vitamin D deficiency, you can ask your doctor for a blood test.  Some people may require a vitamin D supplement, such as those at high risk of being deficient.  These include individuals who stay mostly indoors due to health, work or other reasons; people with naturally darker skin; people who have a health condition that affects their vitamin D absorption or take medicines that causes vitamin D break down; or people who need to avoid sun exposure due to medical reasons.


Vitamin D supplements can be found as tablets, capsules, powder and liquids.  They can also be in combination with other minerals such as calcium. Speak to your doctor or pharmacist about which supplement best suits your needs.

Examples of vitamin D supplements
Examples of vitamin D supplements


Vitamin D deficiency can increase the risk of rickets (soft bones) in infants and children, and osteoporosis and increased risk of falls and fractures in people over 50 years old.  Low vitamin D has also been linked with diabetes, heart disease and some cancers.  Speak to your doctor or pharmacist if uncertain about your vitamin D levels and which supplement suits you best.

Find your nearest Pharmacy4Less
Find your nearest Pharmacy4Less


You may be interested in:

NPS Medicinewise

Australian Bureau of Statistics

Cancer Council Australia



Debby is pharmacist working with Pharmacy 4 Less and Your Chemist Shop. Debby is passionate about promoting health. Writing health blogs is just one way Debby feels health information can be shared. In her spare time, Debby enjoys most in spending time with family and friends, and also spending time outdoors, such as fishing with her husband.

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