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Food Sources Insufficient for Meeting Canadians' Vitamin D Requirements

Here's another vitamin D study. A new Canadian study has shown that vitamin D-fortified foods are not enough to ensure adequate intake of this essential nutrient, and 25% of Canadians are not meeting the Recommended Dietary Allowance (RDA).

Researchers from the University of Saskatchewan, Statistics Canada, and the Public Health Agency of Canada published the findings in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. Here is a summary:
  • 25% (of the 5,306 participants) had blood levels of 25-hydroxyvitamin D (a measure of vitamin D status) below the RDA of 50 nmol/L
  • Currently, in Canada, only milk and margarine have mandatory fortification with vitamin D
  • The researchers say “that current food choices alone are insufficient to maintain [vitamin D] concentrations of 50 nmol/L in many Canadians, especially in winter”
  • While 75% of the participants achieved the RDA, keep in mind that the RDA is just the minimum thought to be needed to prevent a deficiency syndrome -- like rickets or osteomalacia. It's far from the optimal dose that would provide benefits over and above the gut's requirement to absorb calcium...benefits like preventing common cancers, autoimmune diseases, infectious diseases and cardiovascular diseases.
  • 5% of the people studied were outright deficient in vitamin D (defined as blood levels of 25-hydroxyvitamin D of less than 30 nmol/L).
  • Supplement users had significantly higher blood levels of 25-hydroxyvitamin D in the blood, and there were no seasonal differences (i.e. their levels of vitamin D did not drop in the winter months).
  • In non-supplement users, the prevalence of 25(OH)D concentrations <50 nmol/L in winter was 37.2% overall and 60.7% in non-whites.
Last year, there was a study published that indicated that inadequate levels of vitamin D may be causing about 37,000 premature deaths in Canada and costing the country $14.4 billion dollars annually.

This is serious stuff! We Canadians complain about the lack of healthcare resources and funding, yet healthcare is the largest expenditure by the Canadian government. Funding, resources, and a lack of doctors are not the problem...maybe if we could move towards being a healthier population in general, the strain on the healthcare system would diminish -- maybe to the point where we can start diverting some money to other social programs...or maybe even less tax. You may say I'm a dreamer...but I'm not the only one...

Source: The vitamin D status of Canadians relative to the 2011 Dietary Reference Intakes: an examination in children and adults with and without supplement use (full-text article available as a pdf through this link)

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  1. hi Lee,

    Should I supplement with Vitamin D in the summer and how many IU should I take?

  2. Hi Margaret,

    Most vitamin D experts and researchers do recommend supplementation in the summer as well...basically because people tend to cover up, avoid the sun, or wear sunscreen. The amount is lower than winter months, and 1000 IU/day is suggested to be enough in the summer, especially if you do get incidental sun exposure.

    In the winter, the minimum most recommend is 2000 IU/day... but personally, I take more than that.

    Hope this helps.


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