The Sunshine Vitamin (aka VitaminD)

Vitamin D flash card Fotolia 93185579
Let’s take a moment to talk ABCs … and D. Vitamin D. Are you familiar with it?

Vitamin D is one of the most common nutrient deficiencies that we see in our patients. You may be familiar with this as the sunshine vitamin. It has roles in maintaining healthy bones, teeth and muscles as well as keeping our immune system healthy. It may even have roles in preventing certain types of cancer. Over time, low vitamin D can contribute to osteomalacia (softening bones) or osteoporosis (weak, porous bones).

Although we can ‘make our own’ vitamin D through an effect of the sun’s UV rays hitting our skin, here in Canada this reaction does not happen year round. When we do have ideal UV conditions, many of us lather on sunscreen or limit our direct time in the sun. Unfortunately, there are limited food sources (http://www.dietitians.ca/Your-Health/Nutrition-A-Z/Vitamins/Food-Sources-of-Vitamin-D.aspx) of vitamin D to help us meet our recommended daily needs. Most folks don’t have fortified milk beverages or salmon, among the higher sources of vitamin D, as part of their daily or weekly routine. Health Canada (http://www.hc-sc.gc.ca/fn-an/nutrition/vitamin/vita-d-eng.php#a12) estimates that 75-96% of Canadians do not get enough vitamin D through diet alone.

The effect of low vitamin D for people who carry excess weight is even greater. The effect of sun exposure to create vitamin D in the body is less efficient (http://ajcn.nutrition.org/content/72/3/690.full.pdf+html).

So, how much is enough? Daily recommended intakes are 600 IU daily for adults 18-50 and 800 IU daily for adults over age 50. Health Canada encourages adults over 50 years to take a daily vitamin D supplement (400 IU daily) to support adequate intake. Groups such as the Canadian Cancer Society (http://www.cancer.ca/en/prevention-and-screening/live-well/vitamin-d/?region=on) and Osteoporosis Society (http://www.osteoporosis.ca/news/press-releases/new-vitamin-d-guidelines/) suggest a vitamin D supplement of 800 IU to 2000 IU daily to minimize the risks of vitamin D inadequacies. Here at the bariatric clinic, we monitor vitamin D through regular bloodwork, particularly for our surgical patients. We make suggestions for nutrient supplementation based on this bloodwork.

Go ahead, get curious. Are you meeting your vitamin D needs?