Kerri-Anne Kennerley joins the fight against osteoporosis and vitamin D Deficiency

February 25, 2013 (PRLEAP.COM) Health News
Helping raise awareness of the latest and most surprising national health issue, iconic and much-loved television personality, Kerri-Anne Kennerley, is speaking out for the first time about her family history of osteoporosis and her recently diagnosed vitamin D deficiency.

Often regarded as the 'silent disease' 1, osteoporosis is a debilitating bone disease causing the bones to become more brittle, and increasing the risk of fractures and breaks. With fifty percent of people with osteoporotic fractures likely to have another 1, management of the condition is vital as it can significantly impact quality of life2.

The link between osteopaorosis, vitamin D and sun exposure

Osteoporosis is linked to a lack of calcium, while vitamin D is essential for the absorption of calcium into the body. Insufficient sun exposure can therefore adversely affect your body's ability to absorption calcium, increasing the risk of developing osteoporosis 1.

Kerri-Anne's mother is among the one million people nationwide 1 who suffer with osteoporosis, and live with the daily fear of bone fractures. Yet despite her family history, Kerri-Anne, was extremely surprised to learn of her vitamin D deficiency given her highly active and healthy, outdoor lifestyle.

"Given my family history, I was well aware of the risk factors and the importance of sun exposure in preventing vitamin D deficiency, yet genuinely thought I was doing enough to remain healthy. What I did not realise was that my commitment to sun safety was actually preventing me from obtaining the adequate and safe levels of UV exposure required for optimal vitamin D and overall health," she says.

The first national study of Australian adults over the age of 25 recently found that vitamin D deficiency affects nearly one third of Australians (22% men; 39% women). The research also found that rates increase significantly with age and is more common in women, the overweight and the highly educated. 3

And for those not lucky enough to live in the sunshine states, the risks are even higher. 42% of women and 27% of men in Southern Australia were deficient in summer, compared to an increase of 58% of women and 45% of men in winter.3

Sun Safe but maybe D Deficient?

With 'slip slop slapping' now engrained in our national psyche, the sun safe message has created somewhat of a quandary for health care professionals looking to promote the benefits of vitamin D for bone health.

In fact, new research by Ostelin4 has revealed that during the summer months, close to half (45%) of Australian women over the age of 40 purposely cover up with clothing or remain completely in the shade resulting in minimal to no sun exposure. Unfortunately however, this is the same group who are most at risk of vitamin D deficiency and osteoporosis.

For one in five (21%) beauty-conscious Australian women, the fear of wrinkles is the biggest driver of sun safety. However unsurprisingly - it's the fear of other skin conditions that motivates most (86%) to take extra precautions in the sun during summer. More than one in five (22%) purposely avoid the sun even in winter, due to similar fears.4

Associate Professor Julie Pasco, from Deakin University's School of Medicine, stresses the importance of a clear message that educates on the importance of vitamin D, yet combats the widespread confusion around how much sun exposure we need and what is actually considered safe. 

"In Australia, we get most of our vitamin D from direct exposure of the skin to sunshine. For people with moderately fair complexions, adequate vitamin D can be achieved by exposing their arms or legs to the sun for several minutes mid-morning or mid-afternoon on most summer days. Longer times are needed during the wintertime, extending up to half an hour in southern regions. Longer times are also required for people with darker complexions.

"With one in three Australians now vitamin D deficient and over a million people with osteoporosis nationwide 1, it's vital that that this information is delivered carefully and in conjunction with the sun safe message," adds Associate Professor Pasco.

Kerri-Anne Kennerley adds: "In Australia we're exposed to so much glorious sunshine that naturally, many people think it will never happen to them.

"Vitamin D deficiency and osteoporosis can easily be prevented so I urge all Australians particularly older women to speak with their GP and become vitamin D aware. It's imperative that this becomes an integral part our healthcare agenda," she stresses.

People should visit to take a quick test to help them determine if they could be at risk from Vitamin D deficiency.

2. Australian Institute of Health and Welfare 2011. A snapshot of osteoporosis in Australia 2011. Arthritis series no. 15. Cat. no. PHE 137. Canberra: AIHW.
3. Daly RM et al. Clin Endocrinol 2012; 77: 26-35.
4. Online market research conducted by Pure Profile on behalf of Ostelin among n= 1006. The survey was conducted among a nationally representative population sample of people.
5. Osteoporosis Australia, August 2012