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Dust off your running shoes, grab some water, and fight your way through the crowds, it’s that time of the year again – the start of the health and fitness new years resolutions. Each year, it seems that more and more people are keen on making this year “their best yet”; weight loss and fit bodies replace the sugar plum and gingerbread dreams of the holiday season. It’s all about healthy living and reaching new goals.But how many actually stick to their resolutions? Unfortunately, a lot of us throw in the towel before we even give our new goals the chance to become habits.

So let’s make this easy: what sort of “quick fix” goal can we set in order to improve our overall health this New Year?

It’s simple: supplement with vitamin D.

The importance of consuming adequate amounts of this fat-soluble vitamin has been repeatedly advertised and drilled into our heads; but how many have taken our doctor’s advice to heart?

It seems that very few of us actually have.

According to a 2011 study examining data from the Canadian Health Measures Survey, it was found that only 31% of Canadians, aged 6 – 79 years old, had consumed a vitamin D supplement in the last month prior to the commencement of the study (Whiting, 2011). This is a relatively low percentage of Canadians, considering nearly half of all Canadians suffer from vitamin D deficiency during the winter months (Stats Canada, 2013). Deficiency in adulthood can increase the risk of developing osteoporosis, and even more serious issues can arise in children, in which deficiency puts them at increased risk of various medical problems, such as Type 1 diabetes, multiple sclerosis, as well as the less commonly-seen rickets (Stats Canada, 2013; Gold & Nebres, 2009).

And get this: vitamin D deficiency isn’t just a “Canadian” problem – it’s been declared a major worldwide issue in the field of public health (Ward et al., 2007).

So what’s the deal with vitamin D? What good does it really do, and why should you make supplementing your new years resolution?

This “sunshine” vitamin is crucial for proper bone formation and remodeling, assists calcium absorption in the gut, and ensures optimal cell functioning and health through its role in intercellular calcium regulation. While we’ve all heard about the importance of adequate vitamin D and calcium intakes in growing children, did you know that even adults should be supplementing? If you reside in a country situated above the 37th parallel (Go Canada!), then supplementing with Cholecalciferol (vitamin D3) should be on your to-do list this winter.

Why only in winter?

Vitamin D can be obtained in two different ways: through sun-exposure and through dietary measures. In the summer months, we wear less clothing, thus allowing our exposed skin to absorb enough vitamin D from the solar UV-B radiation (Peterlik et al., 2009). However, our vitamin D absorption from the sun decreases greatly in the winter months, due to the warm layers we pile on and less direct skin exposure. Through this, our circulating vitamin D levels decrease, and therefore, an extra intake may be required to help our body out.

Although many times, supplementation in healthy adults consuming well-balanced and nutritious diets may not be necessary, this is one vitamin that is strongly encouraged for supplementation. Just be sure to look for the D3 form; this allows the body to convert it into 25(OH)D (circulating form), and thereafter to the biologically active form, calcitriol. When deciding between, D3 and D2 forms, research suggests that the D3 form is more bioavailable available once converted.

Cheers to the New Year!

Additional Information:

Good Dietary Sources of Vitamin D

-Fortified milk products

-Fortified soy beverages

-Salmon

-Egg yolks

Note: Canada’s Food Guide recommends a daily intake of 500 mL of milk per day to improve overall vitamin D status

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References

Gold, S., & Nebres, M. (2009, May 4). Canadian kids don’t get enough Vitamin D. Retrieved December 6, 2014, from http://www.sickkids.ca/AboutSickKids/Newsroom/Past-News/2009/canadian-children-vitamin-d.html

Health at a Glance. (2013). Retrieved January 2, 2015, from http://www.statcan.gc.ca/pub/82-624-x/2013001/article/11727-eng.htm

Peterlik, M., Boonen, S., Cross, H. S., & Lamberg-Allardt, C. (2009). Vitamin D and calcium insufficiency-related chronic diseases: an emerging world-wide public health problem. International journal of environmental research and public health, 6(10), 2585-2607.

Ward, L. M., Gaboury, I., Ladhani, M., & Zlotkin, S. (2007). Vitamin D–deficiency rickets among children in Canada. Canadian Medical Association Journal, 177(2), 161-166.

Whiting, S. J., Langlois, K. A., Vatanparast, H., & Greene-Finestone, L. S. (2011). The vitamin D status of Canadians relative to the 2011 Dietary Reference Intakes: an examination in children and adults with and without supplement use. The American journal of clinical nutrition, ajcn-013268.

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