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Study: Canadians not getting enough vitamin D


Vitamin D is typically derived from the sun (courtesy: Guy Larocque)
Vitamin D is typically derived from the sun (courtesy: Guy Larocque)

Cheryl Santa Maria, staff writer

November 19, 2012 — According to a recent study, Tanzanians have an average vitamin D blood level 72% higher than the average Canadian.

A supplement can help avoid a deficiency
A supplement can help avoid a deficiency

The study, which was published in the European Journal of Nutrition, echoes the findings of a Statistics Canada survey from 2010 which revealed that ten per cent of Canadians have inadequate concentrations of vitamin D, while four per cent of the population is deficient.

According to the Vitamin D Society, a deficiency can increase the risk for a series of complications relating to bone health, autoimmunity and the cardiovascular system.

Winter is the darkest - and coldest - time of the year -- making it difficult for Canadians to get enough vitamin D, which is typically derived from the sun.

“Humans evolved in the horn of Africa, close to the equator over 30,000 years ago. They spent their days out in the full sun, with no clothing, hunting and gathering food. Their skin pigment evolved and protected them from sun burns and allowed the production of vitamin D through the skin. Nature never intended for humans to live and work indoors, in cubicles, without daily sunshine exposure. This is why it is logical we take action to ensure we achieve natural, evolutionary, vitamin D levels,” said Dr. Reinhold Vieth, a professor at the University of Toronto, in a statement.

Vitamin D helps with the absorption of calcium, leading to healthy bones.

In Canada, winter is the darkest - and coldest - time of year, making it difficult for Canadians to get enough vitamin D
In Canada, winter is the darkest - and coldest - time of year, making it difficult for Canadians to get enough vitamin D

Dr. Jane Goehner, a naturopathic doctor in Oakville Ontario, says sunshine alone won't be enough during the cooler months.

"You actually need your full arms and legs to be exposed for thirty minutes a day, at least three times a week, between March and October to get adequate vitamin D levels from the sun," she explains.

The amount of vitamin D a person requires varies depending on gender, age and lifestyle -- but there are a few things Canadians can do to avoid a deficiency.

Fatty fish, like salmon, are rich in the vitamin, along with eggs, milk and meat.

Canadians require more vitamin D during the winter and a good supplement can make a world of difference.

Regardless of the season, consider sunscreen if you will be in direct sunlight for a prolonged period of time. Over-exposure to UVA and UVB rays can negate the benefits of sunlight by increasing the risk of skin cancer and promoting premature aging.

Visit Under the Weather to learn more about vitamin D.

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