Thursday, December 16, 2010

Increased US Vitamin D Recommendations

Chicago Tribune’s report “Don’t overdo vitamin D, calcium, experts warn” focused only on the risks of taking very high doses of these essential nutrients but missed the most important part of the new NIH Institute of Medicine (IOM) report by omitting that there are now higher daily recommended allowances (RDA) for vitamin D intake. It’s uncommon to take toxic amounts of vitamin D but far more common for some to be deficient, with resultant health deficits and increased healthcare costs.

Trib readers didn’t learn that the IOM panel raised vitamin D’s RDA by 50% to 600 IU (800 IU if over age 70), while doubling the tolerable Upper Limit (UL) to 4,000 IU.

In Chicago, it’s already been months since we could make any of the “sunshine vitamin” from sunlight, since the sun must be high enough in the sky so one’s shadow is shorter than his/her height. Darker skin allows less vitamin D production even with adequate sunlight; sunscreen blocks it. Chicagoland residents must rely on fortified foods and dietary supplements as primary sources of vitamin D for over half the year.

The IOM statement that people get enough vitamin D refers only to its conclusion that bone health is the only as yet proven role for this nutrient. Yet the IOM’s European counterpart, the European Food Safety Agency, recognizes an established cause and effect relationship between vitamin D and normal muscle health, immunity, inflammation, reproduction, and cellular health. Researchers have estimated that these additional benefits occur when people take 1,000-2,000 IU daily. Scientific toxicity reviews show safety up to intakes of 10,000 - 20,000 IU daily; multiples of the recently doubled UL.

By ignoring vitamin D’s increased RDAs and other benefits, and publishing broad statements that focus primarily on the unlikely “risks” of vitamin D and calcium supplementation, Tribune readers missed important parts of the IOM report.

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