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Issue 106: Vitamin D in the News

Maybe you saw the headlines. In fact, maybe you were concerned about the headlines. If so, you’re not alone. Here’s what made the news…

The report from the Institute of Medicine (IOM) calls for an increase from 400IUs of vitamin D daily to 600IUs daily for people from ages 1 to 70. That’s up half again as much from the 400IUs, and it's a hard and fast number compared to the Institute’s 1997 guidelines with a wide range of between 200IUs to 600IUs called for per day.

Overall, the trend is upward when it comes to suggested vitamin D intake. That much makes sense—especially in light of the fact that 75% of all American teens and adults are vitamin D deficient. Apparently, we’re just not getting enough of this sunshine vitamin.

What caused some concern was the co-author of the report who dropped the term “megadoses” and the phrase “more is not necessarily better”—even though the Institute’s report gave a safe upward limit of 4,000IUs of vitamin D a day, while not exceeding 10,000IUs daily.

The problem here is that the whole story (or report) wasn’t adequately communicated in the news release.

Interestingly, anywhere from 1,000IUs to 2,000IUs up to 4,000IUs to 5,000IUs (with the upper limit being 10,000IUs daily—sound familiar?) is what most noted researchers who have studied the benefits of vitamin D for decades suggest to take daily. For instance, Dr. Robert Heaney,  M.D., Professor of Medicine, Department of Medicine Osteoporosis Research Center Creighton University Medical Center, has said for years, “The average person needs about 4,000IUs daily of vitamin D to maintain a healthy level in their bodies.”

As a reminder, 4,000IUs is the safe upper limit put forth in the Institute’s report. Heaney contends, “The recommended 600IUs of vitamin D is way too low. For me, it’s a no-brainer. There is a large body of evidence for benefit of intakes above the IOM recommendations. There is no risk, and very little cost, so why not take a chance of a benefit if there’s any possibility?” As you might guess, Heaney emphatically leans towards taking the safe upper limit of 4,000IUs daily of vitamin D.

Dr. Michael Holick, the leading authority on vitamin D, says you’d have to take more than 10,000IUs daily for many days or weeks to even begin to come close to overdoing it. That’s  exactly the number the report indicated, too, but was not conveyed by the study’s co-author in the news release. 

What’s more is that low levels of vitamin D (say, the 75% of U.S. teens and adults who are vitamin D deficient) have also been linked major areas of unhealth. The Institute, however, didn’t find “enough evidence” to prove any such link.

Maybe that’s because the new guideline was reportedly created to promote bone health, according to the news release. Aha! Perhaps that’s a cause of some confusion. The IOM was looking at vitamin D and bone health—when it’s pretty well known that vitamin D goes way beyond bone health, although it is important for bone health, too.

These new recommendations of 600IUs daily for vitamin D will affect the recommended daily allowances listed on food packages, for school lunches and for other federal nutrition programs. Hopefully, those guidelines will also point out the upward safe limit of 4,000IUs daily—not to exceed 10,000IUs daily—that the study revealed.

Sometimes it just helps to know the rest of the story, so here it is in a nutshell: the scope of the IOM’s vitamin D recommendation of 600IUs is up from 400IUs, but their conclusions were based on bone health—not other areas of health. Additionally, the report gave a safe upper limit for vitamin D intake as 4,000IUs daily—not to exceed 10,000IUs daily—which is what most noted vitamin D researchers have been saying for some time now.


This information is intended for educational and informational purposes only. It should not be used in place of an individual consultation or examination or replace the advice of your health care professional and should not be relied upon to determine diagnosis or course of treatment.

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