In many cases calcium has been highlighted as the most important factor for increasing bone density, thus preventing fractures and osteoporosis. The importance of Vitamin D in the development and maintenance of bones should not be underestimated – this essential vitamin plays a vital role in assisting calcium absorption and ensuring renewal and mineralisation of bone tissue.
“Many people make the mistake of seeing vitamin D as just another vitamin and therefore take too lightly its role towards bone health,” says Tereza Hough, CEO of the National Osteoporosis Foundation of South Africa (NOFSA).
Vitamin D can both be consumed and acquired through exposure to the sun, but due to the fact that sun exposure has been said to be the major culprit of skin cancer there has been an increase in the use of sun screens which leads to Vitamin D deficiency, even in the sunny African countries.
Different skin types, different amounts of sun
Recent studies have found that different skin types need different amounts of sun exposure to get the necessary intake of vitamin D through their skin. People with a dark complexion need a minimum of 25 minutes per day in comparison to light skin toned people who need 15 minutes per day.
The amount of sun exposure needed by all skin types depends on factors such as the angle of the sun, the amount of pollution and the degree to which the sun is covered by the clouds. This means that Vitamin D formation is therefore reduced in high latitude countries and also during winter months.
In South Africa the importance of the latitude, angle of the sun, pollution and the degree of cloud cover is evident through the scenario where Johannesburg’s vitamin D formation occurs through out the year, whilst Cape Town’s is limited during the month of April to September.
"Vitamin D, in most cases, is formed in the skin through sun exposure given that only a few food sources contain this vitamin, thus demonstrating the significance of adequate sun exposure," added Tereza.
(Issued by Total Media on behalf of NOFSA)