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.