Vitamin D has been enjoying an almost “celebrity” status in the news lately. While it’s always been recognized as a builder of strong bones and teeth, a large number of experts claim it can be beneficial to a vast list of health problems: depression, diabetes, cancer, heart disease and even weight loss. As a result, the powers that be have been anxious to spread the news.
But have they jumped the gun?How much vitamin D do you really need?
While all experts agree you need more than the current government RDA of 400 IUs, the controversy is just how much you actually
need for optimal health. Some scientists are recommending 2,000 IUs a day while the more conservative experts say most people in the U.S. and Canada between ages 1 and 70 need no more than 600 IUs a day.
The latter comes from the Institute of Medicine in an attempt to put the breaks on the vitamin D craze. Other highly regarded experts find their efforts disappointing.
Dr. Cedric Garland of the University of California calls the decision a “stunning disappointment.” He wasn’t involved in the institute’s study and feels the risk of some cancers, especially colon cancer, could be dramatically decreased if people would only get enough vitamin D.
The institute’s two-year study concluded that the role of vitamin D in certain diseases is conflicting. They found that some studies indicate no effect at all while others show signs of harm. Extreme doses of more than 10,000 IUs a day can cause kidney damage. People with the highest levels of vitamin D showed an increased risk of pancreatic cancer.
The Institute of Medicine’s latest report sets the upper daily limit at 4,000 IUs but states this isn’t what people should shoot for. Stay tuned.
More is yet to come. To get to the bottom of the issue, a government funded study is underway that will recruit 20,000 healthy older Americans to determine if taking 2,000 IUs of vitamin D will actually decrease risk of certain cancers and heart disease or stroke.
In the meantime, watch your diet to make sure you’re getting as much vitamin D as possible. Drink fortified milk and orange juice and increase you fatty fish intake. Take a walk in the sunshine to make sure your body can manufacture more vitamin D. And talk to your doctor about getting your vitamin D levels tested. You could very well need supplements and not even know it.