Vitamin D: The Sunshine Vitamin

I recently posted a pic on Instagram of our first trip to Barbados in 2006.  We had a calm and quiet stretch of beach near our rented flat that was perfect for our first born chicklet.  And days and days of beautiful sunshine.

Our current reality here in Canada is far different for the vast majority of the year.  As I post this, it is a relatively cold, grey and dreary day in January.  This brings to mind the importance of vitamin D, the so-called "sunshine vitamin".

Vitamin D is essential for bone health and osteoporosis prevention.  There is emerging evidence that it also helps to protect against numerous illnesses and infections including influenza, asthma, cardiovascular disease, diabetes, multiple sclerosis, and cancer.

Vitamin D is both a nutrient we consume and a hormone that our bodies manufacture through a process triggered by sunlight.  Food sources include fatty fish, some mushrooms, and vitamin D-fortified products such as milk and breakfast cereal.  However, many people do not eat a lot of these foods.

Furthermore, many of us are unable to make enough vitamin D from the sun.  This is especially true in northern climates (like Canada!) and in darker skinned individuals or those who cover up or wear sunscreen as per dermatology recommendations.

My husband is of East Indian background, rarely wears sunscreen and gets out in the sun as much as his busy medical career permits -- yet he was found to be deficient when we tested him.  And, according to the research, this is not uncommon.  A 2010 survey by Statistics Canada found that 1/3rd of Canadians have vit D levels below the level required for optimal bone health and up to 2/3rds have levels under what is believed to be important for overall health and disease prevention!

Back at my house, we all take vitamin D3 supplements (well, sadly, my hubby only when I remind him!).  Personally, I take between 1,000 and 2,000 IU per day.  Dosing recommendations vary widely and I suggest talking to your healthcare provider about what supplementation would be optimal for you.