New Vitamin D Recommendations: What You Need to Know
The release of the Institute of Medicine (IOM)’s report on vitamin D earlier this week, and the subsequent flurry of media coverage, left many people wondering if they should stop supplementing with this important nutrient. The IOM committee members who conducted the study that was the basis for the report admitted that, while the information released by the media was accurate, they were very disappointed by the negative spin placed on the research in regards to vitamin D supplementation.
The report reflects a modest increase in the recommended daily intake for vitamin D. The previous recommendation was increased from 400 IU/day for children and adults to 600 IU/day. In addition, the recommendation for people over the age of 70 was increased to 800 IU daily. The report also established an increase in the safe upper limit for daily supplementation from 2,000 IU/day to 4,000 IU/day. This is to say that there is no scientific evidence demonstrating that taking 4,000 IU/day is in any way harmful to overall health.
The negative press surrounding the report was related to the committee’s recommendation to lower the normal range for blood screening. Previously, the low end of the normal range was 30-32ng/ml. On testing, almost 75%-80% of the U.S. population was below this range. The new blood value established as an adequate level of vitamin D has now been set at 20ng/ml. This change converts the vitamin D levels of many people that previously tested as deficient to adequate and suggests that these individuals would no longer benefit from supplementation.
The Problem with the New Vitamin D Recommendations
The problem with the way the results of this study have been presented is that parameters used to establish the new “optimal blood level” are limited to the osteoporosis prevention and bone health benefits of vitamin D. The new recommendations do not take into account the most exciting research emerging about vitamin D concerning its potential to reduce the risk of heart disease, chronic pain, auto-immune syndromes, age-related brain decay, certain types of cancer and other health issues.
The research regarding vitamin D’s beneficial effects on conditions other than bone density is overwhelmingly positive, but not yet extensive enough for the IOM to base broad sweeping public health policy on.
This report does not change the overwhelming need for vitamin D screening and supplementation. There is still a large percentage of the population that will test deficient, even with the new standards. And they will need doses of vitamin D higher than 600 IU/day to achieve optimal health. The idea that every person — regardless of skin color, rates of sun exposure, health conditions or where they reside geographically — will only need 600 IU/day is just not good medicine. It is important to remember that this recommendation is based on research that concerns only osteoporosis and does not take into account emerging research regarding vitamin D’s myriad of other roles in maintaining health.
The Take Home Message
The report helps us to understand that vitamin D is safer than we previously thought, that we can take higher amounts than previously believed without any fear of negative effects, and that when it comes to preventing osteoporosis, we have some very clear guidelines for how much vitamin D we need. Clear data and research regarding its effects on other aspects of health is still years away, and until we have more clear-cut guidelines, the best way to approach vitamin D supplementation is to work with your health care provider to have appropriate testing done and to receive individualized recommendations and follow up.
Dr. Passero completed four years of post-graduate medical education at the National College of Naturopathic Medicine in Portland, Oregon after receiving a Bachelor’s Degree in Environmental Biology from the University of Colorado. Dr. Passero has trained with some of the nation’s leading doctors in the field of natural medicine. In his practice, Dr. Passero focuses on restoring harmony to both the body and mind using advanced protocols that incorporate herbal therapy, homeopathy, vitamin therapy and nutritional programs. Through education and guidance patients are able to unlock the natural healing power contained within each one of us. For more information, visit his website, Green Healing Wellness, or follow him on Facebook.