The Institute of Medicine (IOM) released its long awaited report on vitamin D and calcium intake recommendations on November 30th. Articles in the New York Times and Wall Street Journal would have you believe that we are all taking too much vitamin D and calcium, and that supplementing with either of these two is dangerous. Here is a slightly different interpretation of that report.
All older adults (>65y/o) should have their vitamin D blood level checked by their physician. If it’s low, <30, they should be treated in order to get that blood level up to about 40. Supplements may be needed to maintain that blood level over time. Vitamin D is an essential nutrient and many of us do not make enough due to inadequate sun exposure, along with the fact that this mechanism doesn’t work well as we get older. (NOTE: The IOM INCREASED the recommended daily amount of vitamin D to 800 units for older adults, a very conservative number, and set the upper limit at 4000units a day.) We recommend that older adults consider achieving daily intakes between 1000 and 2000 units if there are no reasons why they should not. Keep in mind, more processed foods are now supplemented with vitamin D so you need to count how much you normally take in each day, and don’t forget most multiple vitamins contain about 400 units. In summary, if you are an older adult who has had a low level, continue with what your doctor told you. Most older adults are safe with taking a daily supplement. An excellent review of the benefits of vitamin D can be found at the Linus Pauling Institute at Oregon State University. Here’s the link: http://lpi.oregonstate.edu/infocenter/vitamins/vitaminD/index.html
Regarding calcium, the daily recommended intake for older adults is set in the report summary between 1200mg and 1500mg daily, which is what we normally recommend. There’s really no big deal into this report and you should appreciate the benefits to getting enough calcium and vitamin D each day as they are essential nutrients. The IOM report in brief is in PDF format in the link below.
Now for some guidance when it comes to health information in the news. Watch out! This is the worst source of information, the general news media. We have a link to the National Institute of Aging web site that provides you with a publication on how to interpret what’s in the news and other health research findings. Take a look at the link below. It will help you stay on track and not get so confused when you hear conflicting information.