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Vitamin D, Calcium Guidelines set for North Americans

Kathleen Blanchard's picture

An intensive review conducted by the Institute of Medicine (IOM) of the National Academies shows the majority of North Americans are getting enough vitamin D and calcium to maintain good health, with a few exceptions. The result of studies has lead to new guidelines for vitamin D and calcium intake that should clear confusion generated by conflicting messages about the nutrients.

After an exhaustive review, the conclusion from the committee of experts is the vitamins are essential for bone health. Vitamin D does not seem to confer extra benefits for other health conditions and too much of either can lead to harm.

Vitamin D and Calcium Guidelines Established

One thousand studies were reviewed by the IOM who concluded most studies about vitamin D for preventing preeclampsia, cancer, metabolic syndrome, falls in elders, depression and for boosting immunity have been mixed and inconclusive. New guidelines for intake of vitamin D and calcium are based on their role for supporting bone health.

The new dietary recommended intake (DRI) for vitamin D is based on minimal sun exposure to prevent skin cancer and on the assumption that most individuals are consuming some vitamin D in foods.

For most adults, the committee concluded North Americans need 400 International Units (IUs) of the nutrient daily. Over age 71, 800 IUs may be necessary.

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Starting at age 9, the new recommended upper limit vitamin D intake is 4000IU. For infants, age 1 to 6 months, 1500IU, age 1 to 8, 2500IU and age 9 to 18, 2000IU and for 14 to 50 year olds the upper limit is set at 3000IU.

Children age 1 through 3 need 500 mg of calcium daily and for age 4 through 8, 800 mg is deemed appropriate. All adolescents require 1300 mg of calcium daily for strong bones, and women age 19 to 50 and men up to age 71 should focus on getting 500mg of calcium daily. Women over age 50 and men over 72 need 1000mg daily for optimal bone health.

The committee found postmenopausal women may be at risk for kidney stones from too much calcium and girls at 9 to 18 may not be getting enough. Assessing vitamin D was more complex.

The IOM concluded most North Americans don’t consume enough vitamin D, but most individual’s vitamin D level averages 20 nanograms per milliliter – enough to support maintain bone health. Inconsistencies in healthy levels can occur in elders, dark pigmented populations and those living in darker climates, but the majority of North Americans do have adequate vitamin D levels.

The IOM warns too much calcium in supplements can cause kidney stones. Vitamin D above 10,000IU daily can lead to kidney and tissue damage, leading to the recommendation that the intake of the vitamin should never be more than 4000IU per day.

The conclusion is the majority of North Americans are getting enough vitamin D and calcium for bone health, with a few exceptions. Too much of either nutrient could lead to harm and found after an extensive review of literature. The committee recommends ongoing, targeted research.

IOM News Release