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Vitamin D studies lead to new guidelines

Kathleen Blanchard's picture

New studies about the importance of vitamin D and health have lead to new guidelines from physicians in Canada. The sunshine vitamin has become an important focus of research. Low vitamin D levels are linked to poor health and increased risk for diseases. Now physicians from Canada say more vitamin D supplements are needed to treat osteoporosis than what current guidelines recommend. The new guidelines also suggest more vitamin D for individuals without osteoporosis, based on age.

Dr. David Hanley, professor at the University of Calgary Faculty of Medicine, and member of Osteoporosis Canada's (OC) Scientific Advisory Council says “Because of these research advances, we felt it was time to update OC's 2002 Clinical Practice Guidelines for the treatment and management of osteoporosis." The current vitamin D guidelines, now updated, were more than 10 years old. Hanley says vitamin D studies prompted the new guidelines.

Vitamin D facilitates calcium absorption needed for strong bones, making the sunshine vitamin important especially for Canadians who experience long winters. Dietary intake does little to boost levels, making extra supplementation important.

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Dr. Hanley says "Also, because vitamin D requirements for an individual may vary considerably depending on many factors, it's very important to check with your physician about how much vitamin D you should be taking."

The new vitamin D guidelines suggest supplementing with 400 to 1000 IU for adults under age 50 without osteoporosis or other diseases that interfere with vitamin absorption. For those over age 50, between 800 and 2000 IU are recommended daily. For adults with osteoporosis Dr. Hanley says no less than 25 mcg (800 IU) should be taken. He adds "Canadians can safely take daily vitamin D supplements up to the current definition of tolerable upper intake level (50 mcg [2000 IU]), but doses above that require medical supervision."

Vitamin D is essential for good health shown by recent studies but more research needs to be done to determine how much is too much. The authors say there are still unanswered questions about the clinical use of vitamin D that need to be addressed. The new guidelines for supplementing with vitamin D may still be conservative and do not include women who are pregnant or breastfeeding.