According to a new report by Statistics Canada, vitamin D levels for Canadians are declining dramatically. The mean average vitamin D blood levels for Canadians between the ages of 6 and 79 years of age fell sharply by 6.2 percent from 67.7 nmol/L in 2009 to just 63.5 nmol/L in 2011. This decrease is very disturbing as research studies continue to show that people with lower vitamin D levels are at a much higher risk of developing serious diseases. Just over two-thirds of Canadians (68 percent) had vitamin D blood levels sufficient for healthy bones (50 nmol/L). But based on the latest Stats Canada report less than 10 percent of Canadians reached natural optimal levels of over 100 nmol/L. Public health action programs encouraging vitamin D production from all sources are urgently needed to help reverse this steep decline.
The reduction in vitamin D levels was consistently found across all age groups and for both sexes. Children age 6 to 11 years represented the largest decline at 10.2 percent. The lowest levels overall were found in young adults age 20 to 39. Males had vitamin D levels generally below females for all age groups with the exception of boys aged 6 to 11.
The study found that 34 percent of Canadians took a vitamin D supplement and 85 percent of these users reached a cut-off level of 50 nmol/L compared with only 59 percent of people who did not take supplements. Vitamin D is unique because it can be made naturally in your skin when exposed to UVB in summer sunshine. This helped 75 percent of Canadians tested in the summer months to reach the 50 nmol/L cut-off versus only 60 percent of those tested in the winter.
A large group (42+) of prominent vitamin D doctors, researchers and scientists recommend that people achieve optimal vitamin D blood serum levels of between 100-150 nmol/L for best overall health and disease prevention(3). Studies of East Africans living naturally, with few clothes and high sun exposure, revealed that evolutionary human vitamin D levels are close to 115 nmol/L(4). This is a vitamin D level 80 percent higher than the new Canadian average of 64 nmol/L.
A study published in Molecular Nutrition & Food Research in 2010 reported that if all Canadians reached a vitamin D blood serum level of 105 nmol/L we could expect an annual reduction in healthcare costs of $14.4B(5).
The Vitamin D Society reminds Canadians to check their vitamin D levels through a 25(OH)D blood serum test (ask for your test score) to ensure you are between the optimal levels of 100 – 150 nmol/L.