By Chris Bamford
Vitamin D is an extremely important vitamin for our bodies. Known as the sun vitamin, we mainly get vitamin D from exposure to UVB rays, but it is also available in a small number of foods.
Vitamin D deficiency is rapidly rising as a cause for concern in both dancers and non-dancers. At the 2010 IADMS (International Association of Dance Medicine and Science) conference there was a presentation highlighting the increasing levels of vitamin D deficiency in dancers.
It was also reported in a study in the Clinical Journal of Sport Medicine, dated September 2010, that there is a need for a focus on vitamin D levels, especially for dancers. In this study research was done with 98 athletes of indoor sports from the ages of 10 – 30, including dancers, who live in sunny countries. Out of all athletes tested 73% came back vitamin D deficient and 93% of the dancers tested were vitamin D deficient. It was concluded that the levels of vitamin D deficiency were high due to the large number of hours spent training indoors. Anti-skin cancer campaigns such as ‘Slip Slop Slap’ have also played a role, even though the Cancer Council website states that if you are sensible with your sun protection you can spend a little time in the sun and get a healthy vitamin D dosage, without putting yourself at high risk of skin cancer. (For detailed information visit www.cancer.org.au/cancersmartlifestyle/SunSmart/VitaminD.htm)
But why is Vitamin D so important?
Reduced levels of Vitamin D can lead to reduced levels of calcium, as our bodies need vitamin D to absorb calcium. This can lead to weaker bones, bone stress or stress fracture injury. Dancers who injure frequently or who are very slow to heal may actually be vitamin D deficient. Vitamin D deficiency can also cause the wasting of Type 2 muscle fibres (fast twitch fibres). This means that the power able to be generated in our muscles is reduced, affecting elevation and speed.
It is important to get your vitamin D levels checked by your GP if you believe you may be vitamin D deficient. It’s just a simple blood test. You can boost your vitamin D intake by supplements, eating vitamin D rich foods such as tuna, salmon and egg yolk, and spending some time in the sun. Be careful though, as too much sun exposure, particularly in Australia, can be dangerous and leave you at risk of skin cancer. Speak to your doctor about a recommended vitamin D dosage for your body, as overdosing can have other health risks.
For further information on Vitamin D visit these resources/references:
This is merely an advice column. Please consult your doctor before making any changes to your diet or activities. Dance Informa Pty Ltd is not liable for any action taken as a result of reading this article.
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