After reviewing more than 1000 studies, experts from the U.S. based Insitute of Medicine have increased the recommended daily vitamin D intake from 200 international units (IU) to 600 IU for children, teens and adults.
People over 70 are recommended to get 800 IU of vitamin D each day. For babies younger than 1, the expert panel considers 400 IU of vitamin D sufficient.
These intake levels are higher than the ones set in 1997, the last time a government panel examined vitamin D intake.
The good news is that many Canadians are already achieving these higher intake levels adequate for bone health and that further supplementation may not be necessary.
The experts agreed that vitamin D and calcium play a role in maintaining strong bones. But they also said there was not enough evidence to confirm that vitamin D plays a role in preventing chronic illnesses, such as cancer and diabetes. That's why they didn't set the recommended intake level higher. But the panel did state that taking up to 4000 IU of vitamin D per day is considered safe. Taking more, however, is risky, since too much vitamin D can cause kidney stones and high blood calcium levels.
Health Canada is currently considering the new recommendations from the Institute of Medicine. Meanwhile some health groups, including the Canadian Nutrition Society, are calling on Health Canada to act immediately on the new recommendations to protect the health of Canadians.
This long awaited change comes after growing evidence has linked vitamin D with a lower risk of numerouschronic illnesses, strongly suggesting the government's current vitamin D recommendations, set in 1997, are too low.
Other organizations are currenlty recommending higher vitamin D intakes than Health Canada. In 2007, the Canadian Cancer Society recommended that all adults consider taking 1,000 IU of vitamin D daily throughout the fall and winter when the sun isn't strong enough to produce vitamin D in the skin. The organization advises adults over 50, those with dark coloured skin, and those who get little exposure to sunlight take 1,000 IU daily year-round.
Osteoporosis Canada currently recommends people under 50 take up to 1,000 IU daily and older adults take 800 to 2,000 IU each day.
While higher than the Institute of Medicine's new recommended intakes, The Canadian Cancer Society and Osteoporosis Canada are sticking to their current recommendations.
Vitamin D, a fat soluble vitamin, is found in only a few foods, including salmon, sardines and milk - not enough to meet the recommended intake. The vitamin is also made in the skin on exposure to sunlight. But due to our long, dark winters and northern latitude, Canadians must rely on vitamin D supplements to achieve an adequate intake.
To supplement, take vitamin D3, rather than D2, as it is more active in the body.
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