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Essential Facts About Vitamins: Buyers In Canada Listen Up!

One of the most notable facts about vitamins in Canada is that we pay a significant premium if we don't shop online. High quality supplements are often available at a 40% discount... even when shipping and exchange rates are included.

Osteoporosis prevention (and treatment) requires that we get adequate calcium and vitamins on a daily basis-even if we are taking prescription medication. The cost as well as the quality of our vitamins is important as we may be taking them for thirty or forty years to protect our bone health.

Canadians will pay far too much for generic supplements if they don't shop online. And one of the strangest facts about vitamins in Canada is that many supplements are almost impossible to find (or are very expensive) while they are readily available in the United States.

Let's start with the good news first.

1. INEXPENSIVE AND HIGH QUALITY CALCIUM SUPPLEMENTS ARE AVAILABLE IN CANADA

The recommended level of calcium for people over fifty is 1,200-1,500 mg a day. Calcium carbonate is absorbed slightly better than calcium citrate if taken with meals and the very best absorption is achieved with chelated calcium. Fortunately, Canadians have access to inexpensive chelated calcium/magnesium formulas at their local grocery and drug stores with both Jamieson and Webber Cal/Mag supplements. Two tablets a day (taken separately with meals) should provide adequate calcium as well at the recommended 320 mg of magnesium needed to build high quality bone crystals.

Note that Caltrate supplements are very expensive compared to Webber and Jamieson CAL/MAG and do not appear to provide additional value for the premium charged.

2. YOU ARE PROBABLY VITAMIN D DEFICIENT

Vitamin D is essential for keeping calcium away from your arteries and getting it absorbed into your bones. But Statistics Canada has found that approximately 75% of Canadians are vitamin D deficient for at least part of the year. The sun's ultraviolet rays are too weak to create vitamin D during a Canadian winter and our summer store of vitamin D becomes depleted in about 60 days. Research now suggests that is why we are so vulnerable to colds and the flu in the winter.

Many vitamin D experts now recommend the following program for the prevention of osteoporosis as well as other diseases:

  • Late Fall and Winter: 5,000 IU
  • Early Fall and Spring: 2,000 IU
  • Summer: 15-20 minutes of sunshine mid-day

But another of the strange facts about vitamins in Canada is the upper limit of 1,000 IU placed on vitamin D tablets despite the importance of the vitamin and widespread deficiency. Many of us would have to take five tablets a day in the winter to maintain optimal blood levels.

During the winter in northern regions a 5,000 IU gel tab should keep blood levels within the optimal range to support calcium absorption. A six month supply will cost $10.

3. EVEN DOCTOR OZ HAS DISCOVERED VITAMIN K2

Another one of those interesting facts about vitamins in Canada is that vitamin K2 is rarely mentioned (and difficult to find) despite widespread use in Japan and France. Vitamin K2 ensures that calcium stays in our bones and out of our arteries-similar to the benefits of vitamin D. Research has shown that vitamin K2 (in the form of MK-4 or MK-7) is also effective at reducing bone fractures and improving bone density.

The manufacturers of MK-7 claim that their supplements provide superior health benefits by remaining in the blood longer than MK-4. I have had some difficulty purchasing vitamin K2 online (except from Puritan's Pride) and so pay the premium for MK-7.

A year’s supply of 90 mcg Vitamin K2 (MK-7) will cost approximately $90.

***Note that people taking blood thinning drugs such as Coumadin and Warfarin should only take vitamin K2 under the direction of a doctor.

4. STRONTIUM! (Strontium Citrate, Not Strontium 90)

Research has shown that strontium can improve bone density 8%-14% when taken with sufficient calcium and vitamin D. Although prescription strontium is not available in North America, there is no evidence that pharmaceutical strontium produces better results than the strontium citrate found within a health food store or online. Strontium is best taken on an empty stomach and away from calcium supplements, as calcium can reduce the bioavailability of strontium by 60-70%.

Puritan's Pride sells strontium at the most attractive price I could find on the internet. A year’s supply of strontium citrate will cost approximately $100 if purchased online.

5. PROGESTERONE MAY BE PART OF YOUR PROGRAM

Focusing solely on facts about vitamins could mean that important hormones are overlooked. The 2002 Women’s Health Initiative (WHI) revealed that hormone replacement therapy (HRT) significantly increased the risk of cancer... but was great for the bones. Many experts believe that it was the progesterone in HRT that helped to protect the bones. In Canada, progesterone can be purchased with a prescription at a compounding pharmacist.

6. ASPIRIN... BECAUSE IT SEEMS TO BE GOOD FOR EVERYTHING

There has been continuous news about the virtues of baby aspirin. While there is some preliminary research on a relationship between aspirin and osteoporosis, there is nothing conclusive in this area. But the research on reduced risk for heart attacks, strokes and now cancer is compelling. There is very little heart disease, strokes or cancer in my family but since I plan on living a long time... I am taking my baby aspirin every day.

Unfortunately, I have been unsuccessful with ordering baby aspirin online as the Canadian border (probably under the direction of Health Canada) blocks its entry. Has a pharmaceutical company lobbied for this trade barrier? A no-name brand of baby aspirin at a local grocery store costs $15 for 180 tablets and $4 online. Are we paying Health Canada to make prevention difficult and increase future health care costs?

One of the interesting facts about vitamins in Canada is that Caltrate costs significantly more than the identical products in the United States.