Vitamin D is needed for healthy bones and muscles, especially in children and the elderly. There is growing evidence that vitamin D may reduce the risk of some types of cancer, particularly colorectal and breast cancers. Experts are now concerned that many people are not getting enough vitamin D.
You can get vitamin D from exposure to sunlight, in your diet (especially if you eat foods fortified with vitamin D), or by taking vitamin supplements.
Vitamin D Supplements
Due to our northern latitude and because the sun’s rays are weak in the fall and winter, we recommend that Canadian adults consider taking a vitamin D supplement. Talk to your doctor about taking 1000 international units (IU) a day during fall and winter months.
Babies who are exclusively breast-fed might be at risk of vitamin D deficiency, which is why experts recommend they be given a vitamin D supplement of 400IU a day. Get more information on supplementation for breast-fed babies from Health Canada.
Who’s at higher risk?
You’re probably not getting enough vitamin D if you:
- Are over 50
- Have dark skin
- Don’t go outside very much
- Wear clothing covering most of your skin
If you are in one of these groups, talk to your doctor about whether you should take a vitamin D supplement of 1000IU every day, all year round.
Can you have too much of a good thing?
We don’t recommend taking any more than these amounts because too much vitamin D can be harmful. Current evidence suggests that taking this amount will help reduce your risk of cancer but with the least chance of harm.
A Little Sunlight Can Go a Long Way
The amount of sun exposure needed to produce enough vitamin D depends on:
Where you live
How strong the sun is
A few minutes a day of unprotected sun exposure is usually all that is needed for some people to get enough vitamin D. You don’t need a tan to get benefits from the sun.