Health advocacy group urges review of vitamin D intake guidelines

Report shows Canadians not getting enough ‘sunshine vitamin’
Massage Therapy Canada staff
December 02, 2014
By Massage Therapy Canada staff
New research has found current national vitamin D intake recommendations are too low and that body weight must be taken into account to determine the appropriate vitamin D dose in any given individual, a statement from Pure North S'Energy Foundation said.
Pure North S'Energy Foundation is a chronic disease prevention program that uses nutritional supplements and is backed by research. It is Canada's largest primary prevention focused not-for-profit organization.

In many instances, body weight is not taken into account when determining appropriate vitamin D doses, which poses a serious Canadian public health issue with significant cost and health impacts, the foundation said, adding the impact vitamin D deficiency among the population is costing taxpayers billions of dollars.

"Vitamin D, the ‘sunshine vitamin,’ is very important to our health. It is used by nearly every cell in the body and has an effect on every system – it acts as a protector and regulator, and enhances the functioning of our body's systems to protect against disease. Simply put, optimizing vitamin D levels results in better health," stated Dr. David Hanley, endocrinologist and professor in the departments of medicine, oncology and community health sciences at the University of Calgary.

Studies have found that if Canadians increased their intake of Vitamin D, the estimated death rate could fall by 37,000 annually, representing 16.1 per cent of annual deaths. In addition, the economic burden would decrease by 6.9 per cent or $14.4 billion per year based on 2005 figures.

In the newly published study, "The importance of body weight for the dose response relationship of oral vitamin D supplementation and serum 25-hydroxyvitamin D in healthy volunteers," the recommended daily allowance (RDA) for vitamin D, 600 IU/d, was found to be much lower than the dose needed to achieve optimal vitamin D status when more than 20,000 measurements of 25-hydroxyvitamin D [25(OH)D] were analyzed. The dose required for overweight or obese individuals to reach optimal 25(OH)D levels is actually 12,000-20,000 IU/d – two to three times higher than the amount needed by a normal weight individual, and four to five times higher than the tolerable upper level of intake currently recommended by Health Canada.

Given the fact that two thirds of the population is overweight or obese, this has significant public health impact, the foundation said. Also, the study showed that vitamin D supplementation was safe up to 20,000 IU/d, even with normal weight.

"The public health and clinical implications of an error in the calculation of the recommended dietary allowance for Vitamin D are serious, particularly for residents of Canada," stated Dr. Paul Veugelers, research chair in nutrition and disease prevention at the School of Public Health, University of Alberta, and one of the authors of the new study.

He added many Canadians will still be vitamin D deficient or insufficient, even if they follow Health Canada's recommendation of 600 IU per day.

"Canada's current approach to health must change from treating disease to optimizing health. This is the only way to prevent chronic illness. A proactive preventative approach increases health benefits for individuals and has cost-benefits for taxpayers and government. Based on these new findings we believe that it is imperative the Canadian guidelines need to be reviewed," stated Dr. Samantha Kimball, director of research at Pure North S'Energy Foundation.

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