There has been some confusion about the amount of sun exposure required to maintain healthy levels of vitamin D, according to the Canadian Dermatology Association.

“People are hearing many different recommendations, some of which can be misleading,” says Dr Cheryl Rosen of the Canadian Dermatology Association. “These include claims by the tanning industry that the use of sun beds promotes vitamin D production in the skin.

“The sun exposure that Canadians receive during their day-to-day activities is generally adequate to maintain vitamin D levels in the spring, summer and fall. If someone is very careful about sun exposure and concerned their vitamin D levels might be low, supplements from food or vitamin pills are excellent ways to obtain enough vitamin D,” she adds.

Vitamin D, actually a hormone, maintains the calcium and phosphate levels in our bodies necessary for the development of healthy bones. Without adequate vitamin D, the body begins to “steal” calcium from our bones, increasing the risk of loss of bone mass and fractures.

“Consumption of fish, such as salmon, can provide a dietary source of vitamin D. Foods, such as milk, may be fortified with vitamin D. However, the daily intake from diet may be insufficient to provide an adequate supply of vitamin D,” says Dr Rosen.

During the winter months, oral supplements containing vitamin D can be considered, particularly for the elderly. Canadians living in some parts of the country where there are few hours of sunshine may be severely low in vitamin D if they have an inadequate diet and are not on vitamin D supplements.

Canada NewsWire, June 13, 2005