Get your Vitamin D

However, in response to studies linking Vitamin D with cancer prevention, the Canadian Cancer Society now recommends that adults with white skin take 1,000 units each day in fall and winter. People with dark skin are advised to take this amount throughout the year.

And the Canadian Pediatric Society recently updated its recommendation for pregnant women, saying they should take 2,000 IU daily.

The D-bate

To help clarify matters, Health Canada says it will launch a study by this fall to investigate claims linking Vitamin D deficiency with chronic diseases, according to media reports.

The pressure on Health Canada to conduct such an investigation has been rising because of the major disagreements among respected public-health agencies about recommended daily dosage, the Globe and Mail reported. Some experts say the current Health Canada levels, which were developed in 1997, are seriously outdated and based mainly on the levels of Vitamin D needed to prevent childhood rickets.

“Despite 20 years of mounting evidence that the general public is Vitamin D deficient (over one billion world-wide) and the great impact that elimination Vitamin D deficiency would have on Canadians, Health Canada still does not have a policy in place that addresses this problem,” Maurice Shpur, Managing Director of the Vitamin D Society told CARP, Canada’s Association for the Fifty-Plus.

To oversee the framework, education and implementation of policy, the House of Commons Standing Committee on Health should institute a Royal Commission, Mr. Shpur says.

The commission would also “clarify the many, many contradictory facts and conflicting advice the public receives,” he adds.

It is a position that CARP supports. “Promoting better health and well-being of Canadians is a priority for CARP,” says Susan Eng, CARP’s Vice President of Advocacy. “We recommend that Health Canada revise their dosage recommendations for Vitamin D to reflect recent research on its many health benefits, and that they increase their efforts to promote the daily intake of Vitamin D since a large portion of the population is Vitamin D deficient.”

According to the Vitamin D Society, elimination of Vitamin D deficiency in Canada could prevent 140,000 cases of serious chronic diseases and 24,000 unnecessary deaths each year.

Leading international Vitamin D researchers have advised that both the US and Canadian governments should revise their recommendations to range from 1,000 to 2,000 IU a day. And even this may be modest: a report by the Vitamin D Society says that some scientists put the safe upper limit at 10,000 IU per day, with daily needs ranging between 3,500 and 6,000 IU.

The bottom line: While advice about dosage is widely conflicting, at present many experts continue to recommend not taking more than 2,000 IU daily to avoid side affects such as nausea, constipation, abnormal heart rhythm, and kidney stones. Others put the upper limit at 1,000 units per day.

Note: It’s nearly impossible to get too much Vitamin D from sunlight or foods. Nearly all Vitamin D ‘overdoses’ come from supplements.