What Is Vitamin D And Why Is It So Important For Canadians?
When the colder months roll around, and the days get shorter, we get less sunlight, and that means we get less vitamin D.
Vitamin D is often called the sunshine vitamin because it’s created in response to sunlight. In the North, many areas don’t receive enough sunlight to maintain healthy vitamin D levels. Add in the reality that so many of us work nine to five and it’s easy to see how vitamin D deficiency happens.
What is Vitamin D and What Does it Do?
Vitamin D is a nutrient that helps the body absorb calcium so it plays an important role in bone health. Experts believe healthy vitamin D levels may also prevent certain forms of cancer, multiple sclerosis, and diabetes.
Vitamin D is created in response to sunlight. When ultraviolet radiation from the sun hits the skin, a compound called provitamin D3 is converted into previtamin D3, which is then converted into vitamin D. It’s important to note that the body is still capable of producing vitamin D if a person is wearing sunscreen. You don’t need to skip your sun protection to get your vitamin D!
There are two forms of vitamin D supplements: vitamin D2 and vitamin D3. Vitamin D3 is preferred because it is the form that elevates blood levels of vitamin D most effectively. However, it’s not vegan, so vegans will want to make sure they use vitamin D2.
Who Should Take a Vitamin D Supplement?
According to Statistics Canada, 1 in 3 Canadians are deficient in vitamin D. Health Canada recommends that children and adults aged 9-70 get at least 600 IU of vitamin D per day. Many foods are fortified with vitamin D but some people still don’t meet the recommended intake.
Almost anyone can benefit from a vitamin D supplement, but there are some groups that should consider it more seriously.
Parents, take note. Health Canada recommends all breastfed infants be given a vitamin D supplement from birth to one year of age. Baby formulas typically contain vitamin D, so formula-fed infants don’t require a supplement.
Parents must use a vitamin D supplement designed for infants, like the popular choice D drops, which delivers the recommended 400 IU of vitamin D in a single drop.
People with Darker Skin Tones
Individuals with darker skin produce less vitamin D in response to sunlight, compared to those with lighter skin.
People over fifty also have an impaired ability to synthesize vitamin D from the sun.
Many Canadians are deficient in vitamin D. It’s especially important to get enough vitamin D during the winter, when reduced sunlight and covered skin may prevent us from getting enough of the sunshine vitamin.
Breastfed babies should be given a vitamin D supplement daily, and people with darker skin and older adults may be at an increased risk for vitamin D deficiency.
Whether you are part of an increased risk group or not, all Canadians and their families should consider taking a vitamin D supplement during the winter!
What are your favourite vitamin D supplements?
Laura Tennant is a Toronto freelance health writer. She holds an Honours B.Sc. in Neuroscience from the University of Toronto. She loves using her writing to help others make better-informed choices about their health and lifestyle. When she’s not writing, she’s tending her houseplants, working out at the gym, and finding reasons to laugh.