Study: Vitamin D blood levels of Canadians, 2009-2011

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In 2009-2011, just over two-thirds of Canadians (68%) had vitamin D blood levels sufficient for healthy bones. Vitamin D is important for bone health and maintenance because it helps the body absorb calcium and phosphorus.

Vitamin D levels are measured in nanomoles per litre, which reflect the number of molecules per litre of blood. Most Canadians are considered to have sufficient levels of vitamin D for bone health at levels at or above 50 nanomoles per litre, referred to as the 'cut-off'.

The age group with the highest percentage above this cut-off was children aged 3 to 5 (89%), while the lowest percentage above the cut-off was adults aged 20 to 39 (59%).

In terms of concentrations, the youngest (aged 3 to 11) and oldest (60 to 79) age groups had the highest levels of vitamin D in their blood, and generally, females had higher levels of vitamin D than males.

About one-third (34%) of Canadians took a supplement containing vitamin D. Overall, 85% of supplement users had levels of vitamin D above the cut-off, compared with 59% who did not take supplements.

Vitamin D is unique because it can be made by the body through exposure to sunlight. During the winter months it is more difficult to produce enough vitamin D. As expected, about 60% of Canadians were above the cut-off in the winter, compared with 75% in the summer.

Note to readers

This release is based on an analytical article in Health at a Glance, which used data from the Canadian Health Measures Survey. This survey collects direct physical measures of the Canadian population aged 3 to 79. Data collection occurred from August 2009 to November 2011.

Definitions, data sources and methods: survey number survey number5071.

The article "Vitamin D blood levels of Canadians" in Health at a Glance (Catalogue number82-624-X, free), is now available from the Key resource module of our website under Publications.

For more information, or to enquire about the concepts, methods or data quality of this release, contact us (toll-free 1-800-263-1136; infostats@statcan.gc.ca) or Media Relations (613-951-4636; mediahotline@statcan.gc.ca).