As we approach the long winter months, I thought it would be fitting to chat a little bit about Vitamin D. Since I’m no expert in this area, I’ve recruited a drug and supplementation specialist- Pharmacist Aline Gariepy. Aline is going to shed some light on what vitamin D is, how much of it we need, and how to choose a supplement:
Vitamin D- What is it? Vitamin D is an essential nutrient for maintaining overall health. It helps increase the absorption of calcium to keep bones healthy and strong. It is made in the body when our skin is exposed to sunshine, earning it the nickname “The Sunshine Vitamin”. Natural food sources of vitamin D include fatty fish (like salmon) and egg yolks.
In Canada, certain foods are required to have vitamin D added to them (fortified). These include dairy products like cow’s milk and margarine. Other foods like yogurt, cheese, soy milk, goat milk, butter and orange juice may also be fortified with vitamin D, but always check labels to be sure.
Are there risks to not getting enough vitamin D? What about getting too much? Because of our cold winter months, many Canadians tend to stay indoors and out of the sun. This can lead to less Vitamin D production. Too little vitamin D can cause complications such as osteoporosis (fragile bones) in adults and softening of the bones in children. However, too much vitamin D can be dangerous, as it can lead to higher levels of calcium in the body, leading to calcification of the kidneys, heart, lungs, and blood vessels.
How do I know if I should take a vitamin D supplement? You should always discuss this with your physician or pharmacist to determine whether supplementation is right for you. The amount of vitamin D a person requires changes depending on age and medical conditions. Sometimes physicians will order vitamin D levels be taken if they suspect your levels are low. Health Canada does recommend that people over the age of 50 years take a daily vitamin D supplement of 400 international units (IU). The best vitamin D supplement is one that says “vitamin D3” or “cholecalciferol”. If you are unsure of which supplement to pick, make sure you ask a pharmacist to help you select one.
- Vitamin D and Calcium: Updated Dietary References Intake. Health Canada. https://www.canada.ca/en/health-canada/services/food-nutrition/healthy-eating/vitamins-minerals/vitamin-calcium-updated-dietary-reference-intakes-nutrition.html. Publication date unavailable. Updated July 28, 2020. Access November 21, 2021.
- Vitamin D. Osteoporosis Canada. https://osteoporosis.ca/vitamin-d/. Published August 30, 2021. Accessed November 21, 2021.