These days it is only too easy to buy vitamin supplements.
However, what is available on the pharmacy shelves is not always good for you.
In fact, some vitamins in large amounts can be harmful.
When it comes to vitamins,
more is definitely not always better.
A case in point is vitamin A. Studies have shown that vitamin A is important for bone health but it is thought that too much vitamin A may harm your bones. This is especially true if you are also not getting enough vitamin D. And many Canadians are deficit in vitamin D.
How much is too much vitamin A?
More than 5,000 IU vitamin A per day from diet and supplements, paired with not getting enough vitamin D, has been shown to increase the risk of osteoporosis and hip fractures in postmenopausal women.
In Canada most of us get adequate amounts of vitamin A in our diets and there is little need to add more with supplements. (Our daily requirement is 2300 IU vitamin A for women and 3000 IU vitamin A for men.) So, all of us should be very cautious about taking vitamin A supplements.
I would recommend the following:
1. Don’t take a vitamin A supplement. The only vitamin A supplements available provide 10,000 IU per tablet which is too much.
2. Cod liver oil contains vitamin A, so do not use it as your vitamin D source or as a way to get your heart healthy omega 3s. Instead take vitamin D and omega 3 supplements.
3. Do not use multivitamins that provide more than 2000 IU vitamin A per tablet. Some contain as much as 5,000 IU per tablet. Centrum is a line of multivitamins that has low vitamin A levels.
Beta-carotene is used to make vitamin A in our bodies. However, our bodies only convert as much as is needed to vitamin A. Therefore, beta-carotene is a safe source of vitamin A.
Large amounts of beta-carotene are found in some Vitalux products. Vitalux is a supplement recommended by eye doctors for people with macular degeneration. Beta-carotene is also found in multivitamins. However, beta-carotene does not have the harmful effects on bone as do large amounts of vitamin A. Beta-carotene in supplements is not a concern.
Vitamin D supplements
Vitamin D is essential for keeping our bones strong for a lifetime. Without sufficient vitamin D (and calcium) our bones become fragile and break easily. Many Canadians have low blood levels of vitamin D.
In sunny Canada, why are many of us not getting enough vitamin D?
Vitamin D is called the “sunshine vitamin” because it is produced when skin is exposed to ultraviolet B radiation from the sun. During the late spring and summer months, when the sun is “strongest”, we can make adequate vitamin D, although sun screen, darker skin and age all reduce the amount of vitamin D produced.
However, from September to April, although the sun is bright, it is ‘weaker’ and provides inadequate ultraviolet exposure to stimulate formation of vitamin D. Consequently, during the fall and winter months, we all need to get vitamin D from our diet and/or a supplement.
How much vitamin D do you need?
Less than 1 year old – 400 IU daily
Age 1 to 70 years – 600 IU daily
Over 70 years old – 800 IU daily
People with osteoporosis – 800 IU
It is almost impossible to get enough vitamin D from our diets.
Therefore, every man, woman and child in Canada needs to take a vitamin D supplement from September to April.
You can find vitamin D supplements easily at your local pharmacy. They are available as single supplements of 400 IU or 1000 IU. They are available in chewable and liquid forms as well as tablets. Vitamin D is also included in most multivitamins and in some calcium supplements.
THE BOTTOM LINE:
Cut down on vitamin A supplements.
Start taking a vitamin D supplement today!!
Your bones will thank you!!
Treat yourself to health!