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Vitamin D Recommendations Updated

Posted: September 19, 2011

We’ve heard a lot about the many benefits of Vitamin D. It plays an important role in the absorption of calcium which builds strong bones. It also lowers the risk of certain types of cancers such as colorectal, prostate and breast; and reduces the risk of cardiovascular disease; type 1 diabetes, and autoimmune diseases.

     Recently the Institute of Medicine committee announced new recommendations for daily intake values for Vitamin D. While the recommendation for infants to age 1 remains the same [400 International Units (IU) daily], updated recommendations include:

     * Children age 1 to 18 years: 600 IU (an increase from 400 IU)

     * Adults age 19 to 70: 600 IU (an increase from 200 IU)

     * Adults age 71+: 800 IU (an increase from 600 IU)

     About 90% of Vitamin D is produced within the body as a result of skin coming into contact with direct sunlight. About 10 percent is typically derived from food sources, such as yeasts and plants; oily fish, such as mackerel, tuna, sardines, and salmon; cod-liver oil; beef liver; egg yolks; and Vitamin D-fortified foods such as milk, butter, some ready-to-eat cereals, bread, yogurt and orange juice. The winter weather in Northeastern Pennsylvania can make meeting the minimal requirements for sunlight challenging so try to get vitamin D from food and supplements.

     You should consider having your vitamin D level checked by a health care professional if you are taking corticosteroids, weight loss and/or cholesterol lowering medications which may inhibit or reduce the absorption of vitamin D. Others who may have difficulty getting enough vitamin D and should be monitored for adequate intake include:

     *Older adults

     *People with a milk allergy or who rarely drink milk

     *People with limited sun exposure

     *People with dark skin

     It’s important to note that getting too much vitamin D can be harmful. The Institute of Medicine recommends that adults stay below 4,000 IU (from food and supplements) per day. Excessive sun exposure doesn't cause vitamin D poisoning because the body limits the amount of this vitamin it produces.

Karen Thomas is a family and consumer sciences educator for Penn State Cooperative Extension in Lackawanna County.