Vitamin D is the only vitamin that the human body can produce itself – thanks to sunlight. Yet almost three-quarters of all Austrians are insufficiently equipped with this essential component. The vitamin balance can be restored easily with outdoor exercise and a balanced diet.
The good news: Vitamin D (calciferol) is multi-talented and plays an important role in many metabolic functions. For instance, it stimulates the development of muscles, bones and teeth, protects against osteoporosis, fractures, muscle pain and extends the lifespan. The bad news: around 60 to 80 percent of Austrians have a vitamin deficit. The first signs of this are fatigue, insomnia and a general feeling of lethargy.
The main part of our Vitamin D reserves is provided by UVB sun rays; sunlight allows the vitamin to be formed via the skin. Only 10 percent of the daily dose can be added via nutrition. A daily “sun dose” of around 5-15 minutes of sunlight and a proper diet can safeguard the supply of Vitamin D.
Above all in adults, a deficit in Vitamin D can lead to bone softening (osteomalacia). Typical symptoms are bone and muscle pain or a tendency towards fractures. Osteoporosis can also develop from a Vitamin D deficit, when elderly people in particular have an increased risk of falling when the skeleton is not sufficiently strong.
On average, each Austrian absorbs only around 2 – 4 µg Vitamin D per day. Nutrition experts recommend an ideal value of around 20 µg if the vitamin is added solely through nutrition. The body’s own Vitamin D production cannot develop in people who spend little time outdoors, leading to a deficit. This often affects older people, since the ability of the body to form its own Vitamin D declines with increasing age.
In order to cover the need for Vitamin D, it is important to soak up some sun in a moderate and targeted manner. But not everyone is the same, and a different amount of Vitamin D is formed depending on skin type or the wavelength of the UV light. Furthermore, it is easier to get one’s daily dose in the sunny south than in the north. In Central Europe: around one quarter of the body’s surface, i.e. hands, arms, face and legs, should be exposed to the sun each day for around 5 – 20 minutes, in order to achieve an ideal level of Vitamin D formation. It is a good idea to get some sun 3-5 times a week for 5-20 minutes, ideally on a daily walk, during garden work, or a short break on the balcony. Doctors believe that it makes no sense to replace the sun with a visit to a solarium, as the artificial sunlamp increases the risk of skin cancer. Dietary supplements – in consultation with the doctor – are also only recommended in cases of severe deficit, such as for sick people and those confined to bed, who have no opportunity to go out into the sun.