The sunshine vitamin

“Be kind to your knees. You’ll miss them when they’re gone!”

No. No horrid threat about kneecapping here but advice from the Baz Luhrmann song, “Everybody’s Free (To Wear Sunscreen)“. (You might know Luhrmann as the Australian film director of Strictly Ballroom, Romeo and Juliet, Moulin Rouge and most recently Australia.)

Get out in the sun for vitamin DBut now more Australians are coming out with the same advice. A university in Melbourne reports that if you’re not getting much vitamin D you’re more likely to lose your knee cartilage and, in doing so, will develop arthritis twice as fast as people with normal levels of the vitamin.

But how do you get vitamin D? From the sun (which makes a song about sunscreen a little ironic).

In the UK most people get all the vitamin D they need from spending a few minutes in the sunshine each week. But if you don’t eat meat or oily fish, if you have a dark skin complexion, you don’t get outside much or always cover up when you do, you may be getting less of the sunshine vitamin than you need. And the suggested benefits of vitamin D include reduced heart disease and cancer risk, less depression, diabetes and obesity and an improving the immune system.

Experts reckon you should have about 5 micrograms a day if you’re going to take the vitamin as a supplement (especially if you’re pregnant, breastfeeding or elderly), but you can also find vitamin D in fortified cereals and drink. Other sources include oily fish (like salmon, sardines, herring or tuna), liver, milk and dairy products and egg yolks, but these will never give you as much as you get from the sun.

So, basically, spend lots of time outdoors (and wear sunscreen if you’re going to be out too long). Which leaves us to ponder further advice from Luhrmann’s song:

“Enjoy your body. Use it every way you can. Don’t be afraid of it or of what other people think of it. It’s the greatest instrument you’ll ever own.”

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