By Janet Fang
Posting in Cancer
A panel of scientists found that most people in North America get enough calcium and vitamin D from their normal diet and that too much from supplements could be harmful.
Most people get enough and more is not better, a new report shows.
After spending two years developing new guidelines for these nutrients and sifting through a thousand studies, the Institute of Medicine released a report yesterday detailing new, increased intake levels. But it also reassures us that “the majority of Americans and Canadians are getting enough vitamin D and calcium.”
We all know calcium is necessary for healthy teeth and bones. My milk carton always reminds me that, in order to be absorbed by the body, calcium needs vitamin D – or the “sunshine vitamin” because sunlight triggers its natural production in skin.
The new ‘Dietary Reference Intakes’ for vitamin D (which even cover the needs of people who get little sun) are:
- 600 international units (IUs) per day for people up to 70 years old,
- 800 IUs for those 71 and older.
The 1997 ‘Adequate Intakes’ – or “guesstimate” as panelist Patsy Brannon of Cornell University called them – were:
- 200 IU/day for infants through age 50,
- 400 IU/day for ages 51 to 70,
- 600 IU/day for those 71 and older.
The new calcium recommendations haven’t changed as much and still ranges between 700 and 1,300 milligrams per day, depending on age.
- Adults 19 through 50 (and men until 71) need just 1,000 milligrams of calcium per day.
- Women starting at age 51 and everyone age 71 and older need no more than 1,200 milligrams per day.
According to Pennsylvania State University nutritional scientist Catharine Ross who chaired the committee of 14 scientists, amounts higher than those specified in this report are not necessary to maintain bone health.
Good thing too because national surveys of blood levels show that “most people will eat enough diverse range of foods to achieve the recommended allowance,” said panelist Steven Clinton of Ohio State University.
That is, except adolescent girls, who should increase their intake of foods with these nutrients or take supplements.
An 8 oz. glass of milk in the US generally has about 300 mg of calcium and is fortified with 100 IU of vitamin D. The vitamin is naturally found in fatty fish like salmon and also egg yolk, and it's added to some breakfast cereals, orange juice, yogurt, margarine, and soy beverages. And if your diet lacks enough vitamin D, the sun provides enough to make up the difference (except maybe during the winter in the northern half of the US).
Confusions and contradictions
The findings clearly contradict earlier studies that showed how vitamin D deficiency was rampant in the US.
According to the report, the measurements of sufficiency and deficiency that labs have used weren’t based on rigorous scientific studies and are not standardized. The lack of agreement means the same individual could be declared deficient depending on the lab that reads the test, resulting in an overestimation of vitamin D deficiency. (The committee found that almost all individuals get sufficient vitamin D when their blood levels are at or above 20 nanograms per milliliter.)
The panel did note how its findings challenged the notion that, with dietary nutrients, “more is better.”
That belief inspired a multibillion-dollar market for dietary supplements. Americans spent $1.2 billion last year on calcium supplements and $430 million on pills containing vitamin D, which soared from $40 million in 2001. And doctors have added blood tests of vitamin D levels to annual physicals.
Many studies have lauded vitamin D as therapeutic for everything from fighting infections to protecting against cancer, heart disease, and diabetes. And as each emerged, advocates have recommended amounts of 2,000 IU/day, and many supplements are now sold in doses of 1,000 IUs.
But the report suggests that many of these studies conflict and there’s no evidence that vitamin D has these beneficial effects. “What we have are intriguing other areas that warrant research,” Clinton said. “Yet the data at the moment is insufficient with regards to defining an appropriate intake. Bone health is the primary outcome.”
In fact, the committee warns that too much calcium from dietary supplements has been associated with kidney stones, while excessive vitamin D can damage the kidneys and heart.
Michael Holick of Boston University is a leading proponent of high doses and maintains that most people need at least 3,000 IU/day. That's what he takes, and what he recommends to his patients. “My recommendation is very simple,” he said. “When I've been recommending for the past decade that people take more than the [officially recommended] 200 units, there was a lot of skepticism. Now they're recommending three times what we recommended in 1997”.
But according to Ross, the new recommendations will “have a shelf life of many years” in terms of setting health recommendations – influencing everything from nutritional labeling to school lunch composition.
And here are the new upper limits for adults (which you should not strive for, as the report reminds):
- Vitamin D: 4,000 IU/day for everyone 9 and above. (This is upped from the old maximum of 2,000.)
- Calcium: 2,500 mg/day from age 19 through 50, and 2,000 mg/day for everyone older.
Image: Vitamins by stemcellbiotherapy via Flickr
Dec 1, 2010
I recently had a blood test for vitamin D. Even though I take 400 IU daily and seemingly get a fair amount of sun, according to the test, my vitamin D level was low. So, I would suggest having a blood test done if your concerned about vitamin D.
This is just another baloney sandwich -- basically from the allopathic community -- which has generally promoted the false notion that all you get from taking supplements is "expensive urine." It is rare, indeed, to find members of the medical community who have ANY training in nutrition, yet all presume to be experts and look for even the flimsiest "evidence" to justify their pre-mis-conceptions. As an aside, I like to point out that one should never confuse the term "dietician" with the term "nutritionist." Most of the anecdotal evidence I have seen suggests that most dieticians are about as informed about nutrition as are the doctors who know nothing (and think they know everything) abut it. Grumble, grumble.
I wish 'doctors' and scientific people would all get on the same page. I'm thoroughly sick and tired of bouncing around from one theory to the next, spending money I don't have trying to stay healthy! My nutritionist recommended B12 and D plus the essential fats and a good multi. When I speak to him, he and others maintain their stance on D, listen to this lot and it's not necessary! Eggs ok this week, not next week. For Pete's sake, get it right!
Due to a lack of a thyroid gland, I must take a lot of calcium and vitamin D to keep my blood chemistry "normal". Before switching to a modern synthetic Calcitriol (D 3), I used to take 50,000 IU/day of vitamin D, along with 2,500 mg of calcium just to stay at low-normal for calcium. These days I take a couple of Calcitriol and 3,000 mg of vitamin C per day and I'm finally normal for calcium in my blood. I have my blood chemistry checked twice a year. It's not easy for some people to stay normal.
"Institute of Medicine" says it all. Since when has medicine got anything to do with nutrition? Unless you consider lots of pharmaceutical crap and its very dangerous side effects as part of your nutrition there is really no need to pay attention to some outfit with a bloated name. There are lots of organisations with their own agenda calling themselves "Institute" of something or other just to create an impression without substance.
Too bad they did not take the time to prove that todays diet supplies enough calcium and D because of fortified foods. It is kind of dumb to come up with a theory and then make a statement of fact without taking the time and effort to prove your theory..
A,D.K.E are fat soluable vitamins. They tend to get tucked away here and there in fat cells and then become mobilized based on a signal we do not recognize at this time. This can have lethal results. Before you start taking uber doses of something you should be aware that even researchers who should know better sometimes fall in love with their partial results and suffer the results of their "beliefs" verses their proofs. Many years ago a woman named Davis advocated treating the flu and other diseases with potasium. So much so that a number of children died from potassium overdoses and she was forced to modify her nonsense, at least as far as treating children with potassium went. Of course, she continued to encourage cancer treatments with potassium so it could only be considered cosmic justice that she herself sucumbed to cancer. And so other mass produced book doctors filled in the vacuum. Now we have internet doctors that fill her shoes. As life goes on we suffer from the debilities of age. Get medical care. Do not get your diet advice from vitamin salesmen. Do not get your healthcare from health food stores. And do not get your healthcare from myself or anyone else you read on the internet without putting a lot of work into the research and by that I do not mean searching out opinions that only agree with what you want to believe.
Where they fall flat is their recommendation that people stop taking supplements. They are making their statement that people do not need supplements based on assumptions that people who eat fortified foods SHOULD be getting enough of both from a normal diet. They point out that earlier studies were done before foods were fortified. The problem is they never tested their theory to see if they are right on how much people are getting through a normal diet. No diet monitoring and no blood tests as earlier studies had done. Maybe they are right, but until they back up their words it is incomplete junk science. It is also very arrogant to issue a statement on supplement usage when you have no science to back it up. I can see why doctors are challenging this paperwork only study.
I take 10,000 IU of D3 a day. My blood tests show my number at 80 (Optimal for keeping major diseases away). I get very little sun exposure. I have had no colds, flu, sniffles since I started taking 10,000 IU daily a couple years ago. I do take other vitamins as well but D3 made a noticeable difference. I do think most Americans are deficient in D3, the best form of D that is readily absorbed. D2 is in milk and is not a good form of D as it is not readily absorbed. It is not how much you take but how much is absorbed that is important. Take the D3 form for best results. Also when taking calcium, it is important to take magnesium at the same time. Boron too is important. Also when sick you can safely double the amount of D you're taking to help the immune system. If everyone took, say 5,000 IU of D3 daily, flu of any type would be not be common. Flu is mainly a symptom of vitamin D deficiency.
I heard this story on NPR, but also heard that many doctors who currently recommend vitamin D supplements plan to continue to do so, as they do not agree with the study's conclusions.