In response to a study, “Mortality Rates Across 25-Hydroxyvitamin D (25[OH]D) Levels among Adults with and without Estimated Glomerular Filtration Rate <60 ml/min/1.73 m2: The Third National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey,” published yesterday in the journal PLOS ONE, the Council for Responsible Nutrition (CRN), the leading trade association representing the dietary supplement industry, issued the following statement:
Statement by Taylor Wallace, Ph.D., senior director, scientific and regulatory affairs, CRN:
Vitamin D is a vital nutrient and intake at appropriate levels, particularly when adequate sun exposure is not achieved, may be extremely beneficial to one’s health. Strong bodies of scientific evidence support supplementing with vitamin D specifically for bone health but also for other non-skeletal related benefits such as immune system support. Vitamin D has long been known to facilitate the absorption of calcium and phosphorus into the bones and teeth, helping them to become stronger. Recent research has also demonstrated that vitamin D supplementation effectively reduces the risk of falls among older adults.
In 2010 the U.S. Institute of Medicine (IOM) set new guidelines for calcium and vitamin D for the first time since 1997. The IOM recommended that individuals need serum vitamin D levels at or above 20 nanograms per milliliter (ng/mL) to avoid being deficient. This “lowered the bar” from the current opinion of other reputable scientific groups, such as the Endocrine Society, who recommend levels at or above 30 ng/mL to be considered sufficient. This “lowering of the bar” allowed for more people to be considered sufficient in this particular study. In fact, emerging research has suggested that serum vitamin D levels at or above 40 ng/mL may be appropriate for certain subpopulations.
This study, and the attendant publicity it is generating, is akin to declaring we don’t have an obesity problem by unilaterally changing the BMI levels for what is considered overweight. The reality is that large segments of our population have inadequate vitamin D levels regardless of which IOM guideline is used to calculate those amounts. Those who avoid continuous exposure to the sun (e.g., people who work inside during the day and those who use sunscreens to avoid skin cancer risks) as well as individuals of darker complexion (e.g., African Americans) have a greater predisposition to becoming vitamin D insufficient. In addition, the suggestion that consumers need to worry about excessive vitamin D levels is overplayed. While the IOM has set a very conservative upper level of 4,000 IU, most consumers seem to have difficulty achieving the 600 IU that is recommended as a daily intake from food sources.
Consumers are encouraged to have their serum vitamin D levels checked and to always consult with their doctor or other health care practitioner about the appropriate level of supplementation that is right for them.