How and Why to Take Vitamin D

8:40 AM

CBC News reported last year that only 1/3 of Canadians have enough vitamin D in their blood for good health. Why is it such a problem in Canada? Sunlight. Vitamin D is found in food (fatty fish, beef liver, cheese, egg yolks...) and it is also fortified in our milk supply but in much smaller quantities than we'd like. The best source of vitamin D is sun exposure, because when the UV-B rays hit our skin it activates a conversion of stored cholesterol into pre-vitamin D. In places like California, where people can roam in a tank and shorts for much of the year, this is an excellent source and supplementation is not as much of a concern. However, in Canada we have many problems: short days for much of the year, cloud cover (reducing rays by 50%, as does heavy pollution), staying covered up (optimal conversion rates are based on being 80% naked), staying indoors (UV-B does not penetrate glass) and obsession with sunscreen (also blocking the rays). For this fact, despite my feeling that nutrition best comes from whole foods, I suggest a vitamin D supplement for all Canadians.

Vitamin D is important for calcium absorption. If you take calcium (or intake it through food) and it doesn't get absorbed into your bones, it stays in your blood and can cause arterial plaque. For this reason alone, vitamin D is extremely important. It has also been cited as a cancer preventative nutrient, and has been used in diabetes treatment.

If you attended one of my lectures on Identifying Quality Supplements last year, you'll know that there are many factors to finding a good vitamin D.:

The first thing to look at is dose. Here in Canada we cannot sell anything higher than 1000 IU but you are free to (even encouraged to) take more than one capsule/tablet/liquid dose per day. Many now come in dropper forms so taking a high dose is easy and convenient. Breastfed babies should take 400IU per day.

Next, the company making the product needs to be considered. One way to look at quality is to check the Comparative Guide to Nutritional Supplements (click the link and choose "search inside this book"). This is a great resource and I suggest looking through it, but if you'd like to save some time, the company that consistently comes out on top is Usana.

You must also look at the form. There are two: D2 (ergocalciferol) which is made from yeast and D3 (cholecalciferol) which is made from lanolin. D3 is the one I recommend, as all vitamin D is converted to this form to be utilized.

The last thing, and arguably most important, is the non-medicinal ingredients. I was taught by a friend and mentor to always cover the ingredients you're looking for on an ingredient list, and instead read the other ones. If your supplement contains artificial colours, flavours or preservatives like parabens, it isn't a good choice and it doesn't matter how great the vitamin D portion of the supplement is. Choose something unflavoured and unsweetened or naturally flavoured and naturally sweetened (with stevia or xylitol).

Vitamin D is not expensive but the benefits are incredible. I can't stress enough that this is the one supplement you need to be taking. If you do not currently have one, or are looking to try something new, click the above link (Usana) and read more about their products. They ship to Canada.

You can read more information about vitamin D here.

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