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A Daily Dose of Vitamin D

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Milk is an excellent source of vitamin D, an essential nutrient also often called the sunshine vitamin since it is produced when skin is exposed to UV rays.

Natural sources of vitamin D

In addition to being produced by the skin through sun exposure, vitamin D is found in certain foods. However, there are only a few foods that are natural sources of vitamin D: certain fatty fish (sardines, herring, salmon, trout, mackerel), fish-liver oil (such as the traditional spoonful of cod liver oil) and egg yolk.

Vitamin D in milk

In Canada, milk—which is the main source of vitamin D in our diets—and margarine are required to be fortified with vitamin D. Vitamin D can also be found in some fortified beverages as well as in some yogurts made with vitamin D-fortified milk.

A study from Statistics Canada revealed that 66% of Canadians do not have blood vitamin D levels that are considered optimal for health however, people who consume milk more than once a day show a higher blood level of vitamin D than those who do so less than once a day.1 These are indeed great reasons to enjoy milk every day!

Canadian recommendations

In 2010, the prestigious Institute of Medicine published new recommendations for vitamin D, which are applicable not only for populations in the U.S. but also in Canada. The Recommended Dietary Allowances were set at 600 International Units (IU) for individuals aged 1 to 70 years and 800 IU for people aged 71 and older.2

To get enough vitamin D, Canada’s Food Guide recommends that people over the age of 2, as well as women who are pregnant or breastfeeding, drink 500 mL (2 cups) of milk every day. Health Canada also recommends that people 50 years and over take a daily supplement of 400 IU of vitamin D.

Vitamin D needs of breastfed babies

Infants that are exclusively breastfed by their mothers are at high risk of vitamin D deficiency, especially if they are born in winter. This is why they should receive a daily supplement of 400 IU, or 1 mL in drops, starting at birth. Once the baby switches to fortified cow's milk (or an already fortified commercial infant formula), the supplement is no longer necessary.3

Sources

1. Langlois K et al. Vitamin D status of Canadians as measured in the 2007 to 2009 Canadian Health Measures Survey. Statistics Canada 2010; catalogue No. 82-003-X.

2. Web site of Health Canada. Vitamin D and Calcium: Updated Dietary Reference Intakes. Consulted April 10, 2013.

3. Health Canada. Vitamin D Supplementation for Breastfed Infants - 2004 Health Canada Recommendation.

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