Friday, 21 November 2008

Getting the Sunshine vitamin in dark times

Vitamin D, or appropriately nicknamed the Sunshine vitamin, is in short supply for everyone living in the Northern Hemisphere. We call it the sunshine vitamin because our body can make this vitamin when sunlight hits our skin. Unfortunately, because we only get at few hours of sun for most of the year (8 months), we cannot rely on our bodies to make enough vitamin D. This is why Health Canada has recently made its first ever recommendation regarding a regular vitamin supplementation.

This new recommendation comes on the heals of recent findings that suggest that a lack of vitamin D can put you at high risk for lack of balance and falls in older adults, can affect communication between your muscles and brain as well as increase your risk of developing certain cancers.
It has been a known fact for years that vitamin D also plays an invaluable role in bone density and preventing osteoporosis. Without adequate vitamin D, your body cannot absorb calcium as efficient nor can it build strong bones.

One of the main reasons why its being recommended as a supplement to all adults aged 51 and over is because vitamin D is rare to come by in foods. Many types of fish are sources of this vitamin, the most rich being salmon, tuna, oysters, herring and trout. Other sources include eggs and milk / soy milk because they are enriched. A 100g (or 3.5 oz) piece of salmon could contain up to 1000 IU (international units) of vitamin d however, remember that this is the richest source of vitamin D- all other sources are lower than this. Milk (1 cup) and eggs (2-4) contain less than 12o IU.

An average adult aged 50 and below needs 200 IU per day just to avoid deficiencies while those 51 and over need 400IU. These amounts are the minimum needed per day and recent research suggests that a healthy adult needs more than the minimum to prevent cancer, falls and osteoporosis. If you have osteoporosis, your needs jump to 1200IU and if you have cancer, the Cancer society of Canada suggests 1000IU per day.
Each health society (i.e. cancer society, heart and stroke foundation, osteoporosis association, etc) suggest different levels so it is important you contact your MD or dietitian to find out your specific vitamin D needs.

Health Canada is suggesting 400IU per day for the average, healthy Canadian ALL YEAR LONG. You can purchase vitamin D easily and for a reasonable price at your local pharmacy. Look for Vitamin D3 on the label- the emphasis is on the Number 3!
If you are taking a multivitamin, it should contain 400IU, in which case you do not need to supplement further (if you are a healthy adult aged 51 and over).
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