What is all the fuss?
If you haven’t got the memo and are not yet taking vitamin D, please pay attention. The recent rise in popularity of vitamin D supplementation reflects our realization that deficiencies are all too common. While small amounts of vitamin D can be obtained from dietary sources such as fish, eggs and mushrooms, the bulk of it comes from skin exposure to sunlight. Lower levels of vitamin D can result from sun avoidance (being indoors and using sunscreens), darker skin pigmentation (conversion is less efficient), living at higher altitudes, winter months, and using soap shortly after sun exposure. It is no wonder Canadians are at a clear disadvantage!
Why do we need vitamin D?
The role of vitamin D (especially in combination with calcium) in reducing the risk of osteoporosis, osteopenia and related falls or fractures is widely accepted. But in recent years many epidemiological studies correlate low vitamin D levels with a growing number of other health issues including multiple sclerosis, rheumatoid arthritis, fibromyalgia, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), asthma, bronchitis, respiratory tract infections, tuberculosis and some types of cancer. This is not surprising, since vitamin D is involved in many processes including immunity, inflammation, and even modulations of genes encoding for proteins that regulate cell proliferation, differentiation, and apoptosis (death).
How much do we need?
Health Canada sets the Daily Recommended Intake (DRI) for adults at 600-800 IU. These DRIs are based on “maintaining skeletal health and have been set using the assumption that sun exposure is minimal.” They certainly don’t reflect the use of vitamin D for the prevention or treatment of other diseases, nor what some refer to as “optimal” levels. Dosing for vitamin D is controversial and many alternative care practitioners feel the daily recommended intakes (DRI) are too conservative. Regardless of various opinions, a blood test can simply be run to confirm or deny a deficiency.
Vitamin D supplement types
Vitamin D supplements comprise either the vegan form, vitamin D2 (ergocalciferol), or the animal-sourced vitamin D3 (cholecalciferol). If a bottle simply states Vitamin D, the fine print will confirm this for you so look for ergocalciferol or cholecalciferol. Vitamin D2 is often sourced from mushrooms or lichen, although it can be synthetic. Vitamin D3 is often sourced from lanolin (sheep’s wool) or fish. It is generally believed that vitamin D3 is superior, because it is the most biologically active form – although some argue that technologies used to measure vitamin D2 in the body are insufficient and therefore bias the results.
Vitamin D & K
You will often find vitamin D paired with vitamin K. Vitamin K2 also has an important role to play in bone building. It acts much like a shuttle bus taking calcium from areas that may be less desirable, such as the arteries, kidneys or other soft tissues, to the bones. It is thought that it may therefore help reduce or even reverse abnormal calcifications. Vitamin K2 deficiencies may be widespread because it can, for the most part, only be sourced from animals raised eating a natural diet versus a factory farming diet. NOW® offers a great combination of the most bioavailable forms of D3 and K2. NOW® MK-7 is a specific subtype of K2 sourced from Natto and known for its exceptional bioavailability.
Thalia Charney, MA
Nutrition and Health Education Manager, Puresource
Thalia Charney is an author, educator and speaker and the Nutrition and Health Education Manager for the NOW® Brand in Canada. Thalia brings a wealth of experience from her many years as a health coach as well as her insights gained from having authored Canada’s most comprehensive book on navigating food products: The Confident Food Shopper: The Guide to Food Labels and Fables. She uses these as a springboard to bring a balanced, broad and insightful perspective to any health topic. Asked about her opinion on any topic and the answer is more often than not… “it depends”. With wisdom comes nuance and she enjoys sparking debate and thought as much as imparting educational tidbits.