While there is consensus across the board that Canadians need vitamin D, it seems as though there is much debate over how much vitamin D we actually need. Naturopaths, medical doctors, and nutritionists alike recommend that Canadians supplement with vitamin D to counteract the effects of our long, gloomy winters. Naturally synthesized by our bodies when exposed to sunlight, vitamin D is known to help our bodies absorb calcium and phosphorus from foods. Our kidney, liver, heart, colon, brain, muscle and immune cells all have vitamin D receptors, which means they all require the vitamin to function. Vitamin D is also linked to prevention of a number of cancers and diseases, although there is no hard evidence to prove the claim at this time. An American study of more than 25 000 people is currently in process and is attempting to prove vitamin D’s link to preventing cancer, heart disease, and stroke. Results from that study are expected in 2017.
Health Canada sets out Recommended Daily Amounts (RDAs) for all vitamins and minerals. These amounts are calculated for Health Canada by the US based organization Institute of Medicine. Recent scrutiny of the RDA of vitamin D has revealed that Health Canada may have received faulty information and that the levels provided by the Institute of Medicine may actually be only one tenth the amount needed by the average Canadian. Biostatisticians John Paul Ekwaru and Paul Veugelers from the School of Public Health at the University of Alberta in Edmonton published a report claiming that the RDA of 600 IUs of vitamin D provided by Health Canada is inadequate for Canadians and that a dosage of 5000 IU each day would be the most effective.
Health Canada has since reviewed the RDAs given by the Institute of Medicine and has maintained their recommended dose at 600 IU. However, Health Canada sets its upper limits of daily vitamin D intake at 4000 IU, defeating its argument that levels of vitamin D greater than 600 IU could actually be the cause of potential health problems. Furthermore, Osteoporosis Canada recommends that adults without any bone deterioration should take between 400 IU and 1000IU per day and those adults with a degenerative bone disease should be taking up to 2000 IU per day. Dr. Oz recommends taking 1000 IU per day and the Mayo Clinic sets its limit at 800 IU for healthy adults.
A 2013 report by Statistics Canada found that 1/3 of Canadians have insufficient vitamin D levels and 1 in 10 Canadians are vitamin D deficient. Vitamin D is one of the most widely agreed upon supplements. Both medical and natural health professionals agree that it is a necessity for good health, especially for Canadians who spend long winters inside, away from the sun. Vitamin D is also one of the most affordable supplements, making it an easy and worthwhile addition to everyone’s daily routine.