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Study finds updated vitamin D guidelines unsuccessful at improving Canadian children’s vitamin D status

Posted on: September 27, 2017   by  Missy Sturges


Vitamin D plays a crucial role in maintaining optimal health. Although most widely recognized for its role in bone health, vitamin D also helps regulate the immune system and modulate the body’s inflammatory response.

Despite the fact that our bodies produce thousands of units of vitamin D when exposed to the sun, approximately ⅓ of the world’s population is vitamin D deficient. There are several factors that play a role in this public health issue, including but not limited to, sunscreen use, indoor lifestyle, location, time of year and lack of supplementation.

In an effort to decrease the prevalence of vitamin D deficiency, the Institute of Medicine (IOM) increased the Recommended Daily Allowance (RDA) for vitamin D in the US and Canada from 200 IU to 600 IU per day for individuals between the ages of 1 and 70 years. According to the IOM, this dosage will enable 97.5% of the population to reach healthy vitamin D status. These guidelines were set with the expectation that the public would be receiving minimal to no sun exposure.

However, until now, the impact of the IOM’s recommendation of 600 IU on the public’s vitamin D status remains unknown. Therefore, a new study compared the prevalence of vitamin D sufficiency among Canadian children between the ages of 6 and 18 years between 2007-2009 and 2012-2013 using data from the Canadian Health Measures Surveys.

The researchers assessed a variety of variables, including season, location, sociodemographics, dietary intake of vitamin D, 25(OH)D status and body composition. Participants were considered vitamin D sufficient when they reached at least 20 ng/ml (50 nmol/l), the IOM’s threshold for optimal vitamin D status.

Here is what the researchers found:

  • The average vitamin D level of children in 2007-2009 was 28 ng/ml (71 nmol/l); whereas the average vitamin D level of children in 2012-2013 was 24 ng/ml (60.8 nmol/l).
  • A total of 79% of children were considered vitamin D sufficient from 2007-2009, while only 68% had levels of at least 20 ng/ml in 2012-2013 (p = 0.04).
  • In 2012-2013 children were significantly less likely to reach vitamin D sufficiency compared to children in 2007-2009 (OR: 0.5; 95% CI: 0.3,0.9; p = 0.02).
  • In 2007-2009, only 2.8% of children from and <1.0% of children from 2012-2013 reached vitamin D levels above 50 ng/ml (125 nmol/l).
  • Vitamin D status was associated with season, as well as the participants age, income, weight and ethnicity (p < 0.01).

The researchers concluded,

“Vitamin D status declined after the upward revision of dietary guidelines for vitamin D, consequently, dietary intake was inadequate to meet sufficiency. Public health initiatives to promote vitamin D-rich foods and supplementation for Canadian children  are needed.”

As our readers may already know, the Vitamin D Council does not support the IOM’s recommendation for vitamin D supplementation or threshold for optimal vitamin D status. Research continues to show that adults require 5,000 IU vitamin D3 per day and children require 1,000 IU/25 lbs body weight when they are unable to receive adequate sun exposure in order to reach optimal levels.

The Vitamin D Council deems 40-60 ng/ml the ideal range for vitamin D levels, as this is what our bodies would naturally maintain through safe sun exposure. According to the Vitamin D Council and the Endocrine Society, vitamin D levels of 20 ng/ml is still considered inadequate.

The researchers stated,

“In summary, our results indicate that revising dietary guidelines alone is insufficient to improve vitamin D status and likely requires additional public health actions to promote vitamin D nutrition for children.”


Sturges, M. Study finds updated vitamin D guidelines unsuccessful at improving Canadian children’s vitamin D status. The Vitamin D Council Blog & Newsletter, 9/2017.


Munasinghe, L et al. Vitamin D Sufficiency of Canadian Children Did Not Improve Following the 2010 Revision of the Dietary Guidelines That Recommend Higher Intake of Vitamin D: An Analysis of the Canadian Health Measures Survey. Nutrients, 2017.

4 Responses to Study finds updated vitamin D guidelines unsuccessful at improving Canadian children’s vitamin D status

  1. nckamdar04686000

    We need a prospective, double blind study, looking at the clinical outcomes in children from 1 yr of age, who are supplemented to achieve blood levels of between 50-70 ng/ml as compared to those with levels below 30ng/ml. There should be long term follow up (into late middle age) to establish possible effects on all chronic diseases as as well as frequency and severity of acute conditions.

  2. Vannie

    I keep reading elsewhere that a lack of magnesium can cause vitamin D deficiency and many doctors who study nutrition recommend that everyone really needs a magnesium supplement.

    I can’t imagine that for some reason there is suddenly a worldwide deficiency of vitamin D in the population, but given that modern farming techniques have depleted the soil of magnesium (as is demonstrated by tests on common foodstuffs over the years), perhaps this D deficiency everywhere is actually caused by a magnesium deficiency?

    • Missy Sturges

      Hi Vannie,

      You make a great point. However, I think the root of these deficiencies are separate from one another. Vitamin D deficiency is primarily caused by sun avoidance habits and lack of supplementation, while magnesium deficiency is a product of poor dietary intake of magnesium rich foods, depleted soil and soft water. Regardless, magnesium is a powerful mineral and carries out about 300 enzymatic processes in our bodies. It also acts as a cofactor for vitamin D and can impact vitamin D metabolism when there is insufficient supply in the body. Both vitamin D and magnesium interact with the parathyroid hormone to maintain calcium and phosphorus balance. Research suggests that in times of very low or very high magnesium levels, vitamin D activation can be down regulated. Great question Vannie!

    • fvtomasch

      Hi Vannie. I believe that our obsession with lowering cholesterol is one of the main culprits in low Vit D levels. We put on more sunblock to protect from skin cancer which is good to a point. We need cholesterol to synthesize D. More people are on statins which reduces cholesterol. Most doctors prescribe D2 (50,000 iu’s once a week) which does very little. We need the active form D3. Low fat diets do not help much. We need to take good fat with the D3 like nuts and seeds-avocados-coconut oil-etc. This should increase levels. Mine was 52.31 in Jan-2017 and I feel great. A good multivitamin and MINERAL will help. Take care.

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