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Daily dose of vitamin D should be doubled

BY TAMARA GIGNAC, CALGARY HERALD

Building Block For Stronger Bones; Supplement helps prevent osteoporosis

It's called the sunshine vitamin -- and researchers suggest Canadians aren't getting enough of it to maintain healthy bones and prevent disease.

A scientific paper published in this week's Canadian Medical Association Journal recommends adults double their intake of vitamin D, which helps the body absorb calcium. It's produced naturally through the skin's exposure to ultraviolet rays.

Vitamin D deficiency is a common condition in northern climates, especially during the fall and winter months. Many people consume fortified dairy products or fatty fish for an extra dose of the nutrient.

Others turn to supplements. Health Canada suggests adequate daily vitamin D intake is 200 international units, while older adults require a minimum of 400 IUs.

But in the eight years since the federal government came out with these guidelines, there is new evidence to suggest the recommended dose is insufficient, said Dr. David Hanley, a professor at the University of Calgary's faculty of medicine and a member of Osteoporosis Canada's advisory council.

New guidelines published in the medical journal recommend daily supplements of 400 to 1,000 IUs for adults under age 50 without conditions affecting vitamin D absorption. Adults over 50, meanwhile, should take between 800 and 2,000 IUs a day.

"We think the safe upper level of vitamin D intake is well above what Health Canada recommends," said Hanley, the paper's lead author.

The sunshine vitamin won't prevent all cases of osteoporosis, but most scientists agree that supplements cause an increase in bone density and help reduce fractures and falls in older people.

"If we're not absorbing enough calcium -- which vitamin D is very important for -- then we sacrifice our skeleton to make sure we have adequate levels," said Hanley.

Health Canada is reviewing current vitamin D guidelines established in 2002.

It's long overdue, said Lorell Thoms, an educator with the Alberta chapter of Osteoporosis Canada.

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This article was published on Monday August 02, 2010.
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