Here comes winter, time to take your vitamin D


Foodsmiths staffer Lisa Bell holds up Health First vitamin D3, an essential supplement for the coming winter months

Summer is over. The days are getting shorter and colder as we head for the darkest day of the year on Dec. 21.

If we're lucky, we may get around 8 to 9 hours of sunshine on a typical winter day, if it doesn't cloud over or snow. Compare that to the 14 hours of glorious sunshine we get in the summer, augmented by Daylight Savings time, plus the fact that as we age our ability to produce vitamin D from sun exposure declines to just 25% of a 20 year old, and it becomes apparent that getting our vitamin D in winter can be a challenge.

Deb Garbutt, our Natural Body Care manager here at Foodsmiths in Perth, has some words of wisdom for the vitamin D deficient amongst us. "Even if you're outside at noon on a winter day your exposure to the sun is not enough to get adequate vitamin D. You will feel it in many ways, such as bone pain and muscle weakness."

Low blood levels of vitamin D are associated with rickets, cognitive impairment in older adults, asthma, osteoporosis and cardiovascular disease. It is also deemed helpful in the prevention of hypertension, diabetes, glucose intolerance, and SAD (Seasonal Affective Disorder), as well as more chronic depression.

In short, vitamin D is a really essential vitamin for health maintenance.

November is vitamin D awareness month in Canada, an important reminder considering our area is 45 degrees north and the winter sun is so far away and at such a low angle that it is ineffectual in providing vitamin D activation in our bodies, a synthesis involving cholesterol in our skin. Besides inadequate sun exposure, hats, scarves, jackets and other warm garments that we wear to protect ourselves from the cold cover most of our exposed skin in winter, so vitamin D deficiency becomes a serious concern. Even in summer, issues like smog, heavier skin pigmentation, spending most of our time indoors, or using a lot of sunscreen everyday can contribute to a prolonged lack of vitamin D in the body.

"We recommend supplementing with D3." says Deb. "Your diet can provide sources of vitamin D, mushrooms, fatty fish, and egg yolks, but not in the volume needed. 1000 international units a day is the minimum for a healthy adult, but some doctors and naturopaths suggest as much as 4,000 international units of vitamin D are needed to help achieve the best target value."

The most popular vitamin D at Foodsmiths is Natural Factors vitamin D3 in liquid or gel caps of 1,000 international units per cap. The flagship brand Health First is also extremely popular, in Vitamin D3, 1000 international units, or Vitamin D3 Supreme, 1,000 international units and featuring Bioperine for superior absorption and Red Bioflavonoids for enhanced effect.

"Even if you are taking a multi-vitamin that includes vitamin D, it may not be enough supplementation." says Deb. "Check the label to make sure you are getting at least 1000 international units per day."


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