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Vitamin D

Background

Vitamin D is well known for its role in bone health, however research now shows a critical role for vitamin D in the modulation of immune function and its importance in maintaining a healthy immune system.

Vitamin D has been found to be an important regulator of innate immunity, the body’s first defence against infection, through:

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Enhancing the production of antimicrobial peptides

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Reducing inflammatory proteins called cytokines

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Reinforcing the physical barrier function of epithelial cells (the cells that act as a barrier between the inside and outside of the body).(1)

Vitamin D status of Australians

Nearly one quarter of Australian adults have low vitamin D levels (<50nmol/L), with higher rates during winter when sun exposure is reduced.

Groups at greatest risk include housebound, and other people who regularly avoid sun exposure.(2)

Meeting vitamin D requirements

Vitamin D is obtained through the direct action of sunlight on the skin (90%) or through dietary nutrition (10%), in particular dairy products, eggs and fish.

Increasing vitamin D levels through diet alone is very difficult. When sun exposure is minimal, vitamin D intake from dietary sources and supplementation of at least 600 IU (15 μg) per day for people aged ≤ 70 years and 800 IU (20 μg) per day for those aged > 70 years is recommended.(3)

(1)Sassi F et al. Nutrients 2018;10:1656-69
(2)Australian Health Survey, 2011-2012
(3)Nowson C et al Med J Aust 2012; 196 (11): 686-687