How Vitamin D Can Help you Shine
By Jemma Besson, RD CDE
Jemma Besson is a Registered Dietitian and Certified Diabetes Educator who works for Shoppers Drug Mart®.
We often hear about how vitamin D helps our body absorb calcium. While vitamin D is a key player in bone health - that is not the only role it has in our body. In fact, almost every cell has a vitamin D receptor1. Vitamin D influences the bones, intestines, immune and cardiovascular systems, pancreas, muscles, and brain1. Vitamin D is a fat soluble vitamin that is naturally present in a limited amount of foods. Our body can also produce vitamin D from the sun2. The vitamin D we obtain through food or via the sun needs to be converted by the liver and kidneys into an active form before it can be used2. However, as we age our body becomes less efficient at these conversion processes3,4. Our ability to absorb vitamin D from food also lessens, further increasing the risk of vitamin D deficiency with increasing age2.
Even though there is no shortage of information on the importance of vitamin D, almost fifty percent of the world’s population has a vitamin D deficiency1. Symptoms for deficiency are often subtle and difficult to recognize, but can have a significant negative impact on overall quality of life. If you find that you are often sick with a cold or flu, low vitamin D levels could be a contributing factor5. Perhaps you just can’t shake feeling tired? This could also be a subtle and often overlooked symptom of a vitamin D deficiency6. Some other symptoms can present as chronic back aches, low mood or even slow healing of cuts2-6. While the symptoms are often vague, a simple blood test can help you determine if vitamin D deficiency may be a contributing factor.
The daily recommendations for vitamin D intake are 600 IU for children and adults 9-70 years old and 800 IU for adults over the age of 717. In Canada, where you will find vitamin D present in food is primarily those which have been fortified7, such as cow’s milk and milk alternatives. Natural food sources of vitamin D are limited – the most frequently consumed are egg yolks and fatty fish like salmon and sardines7.
So the question on everyone’s mind – should I take a supplement? While it can be difficult to obtain enough vitamin D from food alone, it is not impossible. However, with the natural aging process it can become even more challenging. Studies suggest that supplementation is the best way to ensure adequate vitamin D intake to meet needs4. The recommended dose should be discussed with your doctor or registered dietitian to ensure you are not taking too much. Health Canada recommends supplementing with 400IU daily if over the age of 508, but many health care providers suggest that 1000IU daily is generally regarded as safe3-4. The addition of any new supplements should always be discussed with your doctor prior to taking.
If you are looking for help to optimize your vitamin D intake, Shoppers Drug Mart has Registered Dietitians available for personalized nutrition advice tailored to your health needs. For more information please visit shoppersdrugmart.ca/dietitians.
The information provided is for personal use, reference and education only and is not intended to be a substitute for a Physician’s advice, diagnosis or treatment. Please consult your healthcare professional for specific information on personal health matters. Please note: Dietitian services are currently only available in Ontario. Please contact your store to learn more. ®/TM 911979 Alberta Ltd. ©2020 Shoppers Drug Mart Inc.
- Nair, R and Maseeh, A. (2012). Vitamin D: The “sunshine” vitamin. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3356951/
- National Institutes of Health. (2019). Vitamin D: Fact Sheet for Health Professionals. Retrieved from https://ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/VitaminD-HealthProfessional/#h5
- Boucher, B. (2012). The Problems of Vitamin D Insufficiency in Older People. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3501367/
- Meehan, M and Penckofer, S. (2014). The Role of vitamin D in the Aging Adult. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4399494/
- Schwalfenberg, GK. (2010) A review of the critical role of vitamin D in the functioning of the immune system and the clinical implications of vitamin D deficiency. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20824663
- Johnson, K. and Sattari, M. (2015). Vitamin D deficiency and fatigue: an unusual presentation. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/26543719
- Unlock Food (2019). What you need to know about vitamin D. Retrieved from https://www.unlockfood.ca/en/Articles/Vitamins-and-Minerals/What-you-need-to-know-about-Vitamin-D.aspx
- Health Canada. (2019). Vitamin D and Calcium: Updated Dietary Reference Intakes. Retrieved from https://www.canada.ca/en/health-canada/services/food-nutrition/healthy-eating/vitamins-minerals/vitamin-calcium-updated-dietary-reference-intakes-nutrition.html