Vitamin D: The sunshine vitamin

Melissa Ouellette
Alberta Health Services

Often referred to as the sunshine vitamin, much of our population seems to trust that they will obtain their daily required dosage from the sun. Unfortunately, we live in an age of UV index warnings and this is not the case. In the winter Alberta’s latitude is north of 49 degrees, meaning that the angle of the sun is such that synthetization of vitamin D from the sun is poor. Supplements of vitamin D are key to ensuring we have enough “sunshine” in our lives.
Vitamin D’s main function is bone growth and bone development in children and the maintenance of bone health in adults. Healthy term infants and children up to age eight require a supplemental daily dose of 400 IU. The same daily dose is also recommended into adulthood to help maintain strong, healthy bones.
Vitamin D is a fat soluble vitamin and is best taken in the evening hours. The liver’s cholesterol metabolizes vitamin D allowing the calcium and phosphorus circulating in the blood to be absorbed into the bones. Adverse effects from a lack of Vitamin D can include softening of the bones in children (rickets) and osteoporosis in adults. If the latter is already a concern, ensure that any calcium supplements are taken with vitamin D to promote absorption.
A few foods naturally contain vitamin D, including egg yolks and fatty fish such as salmon, trout and herring. Although it is mandatory for infant’s formula and cow’s milk to be fortified with vitamin D, one cup (or 250mL) of either milk or infant formula is only equivalent to 100 IU. A vitamin D supplement is therefore recommended in addition to dietary intake.
For more information on vitamin D and a variety of other health related topics, visit www.myhealth.alberta.ca. Guidance and health advice are also available 24/7 by calling Health Link at 811.

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