Institute recommends minor boost in vitamin D, calcium intake

January 1, 2011

A new report from the Institute of Medicine (IOM) has found that there is insufficient evidence to support major revisions in the dietary reference intakes for calcium and vitamin D.

Key Points

National report - A new report from the Institute of Medicine (IOM) has found that there is insufficient evidence to support major revisions in the dietary reference intakes for calcium and vitamin D.

But a panel did recommend minor increases, and the American Academy of Dermatology (AAD) says it may consider a similar modification of its own recommendations, in light of the report.

"At the end of our review we found that there was a strong body of evidence to support the role of both nutrients as causative agents in good health," says A. Catharine Ross, Ph.D., chairwoman of an IOM study group that reviewed health claims for the supplements.

The IOM - an independent, nonprofit organization that is the health arm of the National Academy of Sciences - issued its report on Nov. 30, about six months after the initial due date.

The report recommended boosting the daily intake of vitamin D for children and adults up to age 70 from the previous 200 or 400 IU a day to 600 IU a day, and for adults over age 70, to 800 IU a day.

Additionally, the IOM raised the Tolerable Upper Intake Level from 2,000 IU to 4,000 IU a day.

The daily recommendations for calcium are based on age, and range from 700 to 1,300 mg.

Speaking at a news conference, Dr. Ross, a professor of nutrition at Pennsylvania State University, University Park, Pa., said, "We could not find solid evidence that consuming more of either nutrient would protect the public from chronic diseases ranging from cancer to diabetes."

She acknowledged the challenge of factoring in skin synthesis of vitamin D via sun exposure. The report took a conservative approach, basing its recommendations "on the assumption of minimal sun exposure."

One significant difference is that earlier reports on calcium and vitamin D were based on "inadequate intake, and that is a different construct from either an estimated average requirement or a recommended dietary allowance" as used in the current report, Dr. Ross said. Exact comparisons cannot be made with past recommendations, she said.

Furthermore, the recommendations in the report are a threshold and do not necessarily represent optimum levels of each nutrient, nor do they take into account morbidities and therapies that might change the equation, she said.