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Summary of key findings

Vitamin D status of Canadians as measured in the 2007 to 2009 Canadian Health Measures Survey

Publication: Health Reports 2010:21(1)

Authors: Kellie Langlois, Linda Greene-Finestone, Julian Little, Nick Hidiroglou, and Susan Whiting

Data: 2007-2009 Canadian Health Measures Survey

New data from the Canadian Health Measures Survey show that 4% of Canadians aged 6 to 79, just over 1.1 million people, were considered vitamin D-deficient.

These findings are included in the second data release from the CHMS, which collected key information about the health of Canadians by means of direct physical measurements.  The CHMS tested blood samples of participants for a number of lipids, which are a class of fats that include cholesterol and triglycerides, and for vitamin D and other nutrition markers.

About 5% of men and 3% of women aged 6 to 79 were considered vitamin D-deficient.  The highest prevalence of deficiency occurred among men aged 20 to 39, about 7% of whom were considered vitamin D-deficient.

Vitamin D is a nutrient that helps the body use calcium and phosphorus to build and maintain strong bones and teeth.  When it is deficient, the body absorbs very little calcium.  Deficiency in children can cause nutritional rickets, a condition that results in soft bones and skeletal deformities.  In adults, low levels of vitamin D can cause osteoporosis.

The survey found that the vast majority (90%) of Canadians aged 6 to 79 had concentrations of vitamin D in their blood that were considered adequate for bone health,

Conversely, 10% or roughly 3 million people, had concentrations considered inadequate; of these, 1.1 million were considered vitamin D-deficient.  Men were more likely than women to have inadequate concentrations. 

For both sexes, levels of vitamin D followed a U-shape by age group: highest among children and seniors, and lowest at ages 20 to 39.  Levels tended to be higher among women than men.

A factor associated with lower concentrations was, for some people, darker skin pigmentation.  This is because it is more difficult for people with darker skin to get adequate vitamin D through sun exposure.  White ethnic origin tended to be associated with higher levels of concentration of vitamin D.  

Full article

For more information about this article, contact Kellie Langlois (1-613-951-3806: Kellie. Health Analysis Division, Statistics Canada.