The survey, conducted by Statistics Canada, tested the vitamin D levels in over 5000 people aged 6 to 79, who represented the majority of a Canadians. It found that 10 percent of people aren't getting enough of the sunshine vitamin for proper bone health; while 4 percent have levels so low they are at risk of developing rickets, a bone disease in children characterized by softening and distortion of the bones.
What's more, the survey found that two-thirds of Canadians have levels below what has been shown in research to protect against chronic diseases, including heart disease, breast cancer and colon cancer.
In the survey, vitamin D deficiency was defined as a concentration below 27.5 nmol/L of vitamin D in the blood, although growing evidence suggests that much higher concentrations, more than 75 nmol/L, are needed for overall health and disease prevention.
The survey, which used data from the Canadian Health Measures Survey, took direct physical measurements, including blood samples, to test levels of the vitamin. It found that skin colour played a dominant role in vitamin D status. On average, white people had 40 percent more vitamin D than non-white people; which is likely due in part to the fact that dark skin isn't as efficient at producing the vitamin when exposed to sunlight.
Currently Health Canada recommends Canadian adults get between 200 and 400 International Units (IU) of vitamin D each day. In light of the mounting body of evidence showing the protective effects of higher levels of the vitamin, the Canadian Cancer Society recommends 1000 IU of vitamin D per day for adults.
Thanks to our northern latitude and long, dark winters, Canadians must rely on food sources and supplements to meet their vitamin D requirements year round.
For more information on ways to boost your intake of vitamin D, check out Leslie Beck's Foods that Fight Disease.
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