When exposed to UVB-radiation, the human body produces vitamin D out of cholesterol. Vitamin D is therefore also known as the “sunshine vitamin”. Healthy vitamin D levels in people are thought to play a role in preventing several health problems, such as cardiovascular diseases, osteoporosis, mood disorders, diabetes and other autoimmune diseases [1]. In a previous post, Dr. Faraone also outlines the association between vitamin D and ADHD in children and adolescents [2]. In most western countries, the beneficial effects of vitamin D are well-established. Pregnant women are even advised to add vitamin D supplementation to their diet to stimulate the fetal growth [3].

People that live further from the equator, have fewer hours of UVB-radiation and are more prone to vitamin D insufficiency. For example, residents of northern Canada and Norway have very little UVB exposure during November through February. During those months, vitamin D intake is even more important.

Residents of the arctic circle, whose families have lived there for generations after generations, have diets that are traditionally relatively high in vitamin D. The diet contains among other things: liver, trout, Atlantic salmon, seals and whales. As younger generations gradually shift away from the traditional diet, vitamin D insufficiency becomes more common among northern residents [5]. It is yet unclear if the decline in traditional diets will be accompanied by a rise in vitamin D insufficiency-related health problems. However, it is well established that several of these health problems have been uncommon among northern residents in the past [6].

Research shows that in countries further away from the equator, vitamin D levels are steady with regular UVB-exposure: Going outdoors around noon, sun bed use (with caution) and sun seeking holidays. And in the UVB-scarce months, regular vitamin D intake becomes in particular important to prevent from low vitamin D levels and its possible consequences [4].


[1] Wessels I, & Rink L (2019) . Micronutrients in autoimmune diseases: possible therapeutic benefits of zinc and vitamin D. J Nutr Biochem. Oct 30;77:108240. doi:10.1016/j.jnutbio.2019.108240. [Epub ahead of print]

[2] https://newbrainnutrition.com/adhd-and-vitamin-d-deficiency/

[3] Gallo S, McDermid JM, Al-Nimr RI, Hakeem R, Moreschi JM, Pari-Keener M, Stahnke B, Papoutsakis C, Handu D, Cheng FW (2019). Vitamin D Supplementation during Pregnancy: An Evidence Analysis Center Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis. J Acad Nutr Diet. Oct 25. pii: S2212-2672(19)30849-4. doi: 10.1016/j.jand.2019.07.002. [Epub ahead of print]

[4] Brustad M1, Edvardsen K, Wilsgaard T, Engelsen O, Aksnes L, Lund E (2007). Seasonality of UV-radiation and vitamin D status at 69 degrees north. Photochem Photobiol Sci. 2007 Aug;6(8):903-8. Epub 2007 Jun 27.

[5] El Hayek Fares J, & Weiler HA(2016). Implications of the nutrition transition for vitamin D intake and status in Aboriginal groups in the Canadian Arctic. Nutr Rev. 2016 Sep;74(9):571-83. doi: 10.1093/nutrit/nuw020.

[6] Dewailly E Blanchet C Lemieux S et al (2001). n-3 Fatty acids and cardiovascular disease risk factors among the Inuit of Nunavik . Am J Clin Nutr. 74 : 464 – 473 .[/st_text][/st_column][/st_row]

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