Key Messages

  • Vitamin D is essential for musculoskeletal health in all age groups and is likely to be important for other aspects of health.
  • The major source of vitamin D is via exposure to the sun’s ultraviolet-B (UVB) radiation.
  • Most Australians obtain just 5–10 per cent of their daily vitamin D requirements from dietary sources.
  • Daily exercise also helps produce vitamin D.

Overview

This document provides key health messages to assist doctors, nurses and allied health professionals in giving advice to people about vitamin D deficiency.

It outlines population groups at risk of having low vitamin D, information about sun exposure and vitamin D, and vitamin D screening and treatment.

This guideline is intended for use in conjunction with current SunSmart policies and guidelines.

Very low vitamin D causes bone and muscle pain and poor bone mineralisation. This can result in rickets in children and osteomalacia in adults. Low vitamin D is also a contributor to osteopenia and osteoporosis.

Appropriate dosages of vitamin D supplements may reduce falls and fractures in older people in residential care.

Low vitamin D levels have been associated with multiple sclerosis, diabetes (type 1 and type 2), various types of cancers (particularly colon cancer), cardiovascular disease, mental health conditions, all-cause mortality, altered immunity, and auto‑immune diseases. To date however, a causal relationship has not been established.

The major source of vitamin D is via exposure to the sun’s ultraviolet-B (UVB) radiation.

Most Australians obtain just 5–10 per cent of their daily vitamin D requirements from dietary sources. Only a few foods contain vitamin D (for example, some fish, eggs and UV-irradiated mushrooms). Margarine and some types of milk have added vitamin D. 

The US recommended dietary allowances (RDA) for vitamin D are 600 IU (15 µg) daily for age 1–70 years and 800 IU (20 µg) daily in adults > 70 years. For infants < 1 year, the adequate intake is 400 IU (10 µg) daily. These RDAs assume minimal sun exposure and are intended to meet or exceed the need of 97.5 per cent of the population.