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Should I take a vitamin D supplement?

Vitamins don’t give you calories or energy, but they may help you stay healthy. Your body can’t make vitamins – you must get them from the foods you eat.

The best way to get all the vitamins and minerals you need is to make healthy food choices.

The one exception: vitamin D

Vitamin D is needed for healthy bones and muscles, especially in children and the elderly.

Your skin produces vitamin D when exposed to sunlight, but getting vitamin D from your diet or by taking vitamin supplements is safer than UV rays. Vitamin D can be found in small amounts in a few foods, including fatty fish such as herring, mackerel, sardines and tuna. To make vitamin D more available, it’s added to some dairy products, juices and cereals, which are then labelled as “fortified with vitamin D.”

Vitamin D and cancer

There is evidence that vitamin D may reduce the risk of some types of cancer, particularly colorectal and breast cancers.

How to get enough vitamin D

During the fall and winter months, the sun’s rays are weaker and many Canadians spend more time indoors, away from direct sunlight. Canadians may need to take a vitamin D supplement during these months. Talk to your doctor about whether taking 1000 international units (IU) a day in the fall and winter is right for you.

Babies who are exclusively breast-fed may be at risk of vitamin D deficiency, which is why experts recommend giving them a vitamin D supplement of 400 IU a day.

Can you have too much of a good thing?

Having either too little or too much vitamin D can cause health problems. Current evidence suggests that taking a supplement of 1000 IU of vitamin D a day may help reduce your risk of cancer with the least chance of harm.

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