The Institute of Medicine (IOM), a health arm of the National Academy of Sciences, has just released its long-awaited vitamin D supplementation recommendations. To the disappointment of the world’s leading vitamin D scientists, those recommendations make a mockery of an exhaustive body of scientific research.
The IOM suggests that 600 international units (IU) of supplemented vitamin D3 per day is ideal, and that a blood level of 20 ng/ml is sufficient for optimal human health. The IOM also suggests that supplementation with higher quantities of vitamin D could be harmful and that there are no randomized controlled trials to prove the safety or efficacy of higher levels of supplementation.
The Sunlight Institute declares that the IOM’s recommendations are ill-conceived and dangerous for the following seven reasons:
1. Extensive research indicates that if there were no other dietary source of vitamin D, 600 IU per day in adults would produce a blood level, on average, of about 6 ng/ml, a level so low that it correlates to the occurrence of the disease osteomalacia or “adult rickets.” Incredibly, in the press conference, it was stated that 600 IU would be adequate at the North and South Poles.
2. The IOM considers the 600-IU-per-day recommendation, added to dietary sources and sunlight exposure, to be sufficient for optimal health. In reality, little vitamin D is present in foods. For example, three glasses of vitamin D-fortified milk provides only 300 IU; 3.5 oz. of farmed salmon, 200 IU; a glass of fortified orange juice, 100 IU totaling a mere 1,200 IU per day including the IOM-recommended 600 IU supplement. Sunlight exposure, the most natural and productive source of vitamin D, could easily fill in the gap to a 2,000 IU level during the summer, but in the winter, north of latitude 340,(On a line from Los Angeles to Atlanta, for example) little or no vitamin D is produced. In the northern US and in Canada, “vitamin D winter” (the time during which the body cannot produce any vitamin D from the reduced amount of available sunshine) lasts for several months. Ninety-five percent of Canadians are considered (by non-IOM measures) to be D deficient in winter, and Americans in the Northern states are not much better. A 600-IU supplement plus the IOM’s recommended food sources is a recipe for a winter health disaster, which may include highly increased susceptibility to colds, influenza, cancer, heart disease MS, septicemia and numerous other maladies. It was also stated at the IOM press conference that the average American gets 200-300 IU from food.
3. Vitamin D blood level of 20 ng/ml are not really even sufficient for bone health, and that number sets research back several years. The “normal vitamin D range” printed on laboratory blood-test results prior to 2005 was from 8.9 ng/ml to 46.7 ng/ml. Based on newer research findings, that range changed after 2005, and lab test results began carrying the statement, “Recent studies consider the lower limit of 32 ng/ml to be a threshold for optimal health” with a reference to research conducted by Dr. Bruce Hollis who is widely regarded as one of the world’s top vitamin D scientists. (Hollis BW. J Nutr 2005;135:317-22) Dr. Hollis stated: “The current adult recommendations for vitamin D, 200-600 IU per day, are very inadequate when one considers that a 10-15 min whole-body exposure to peak summer sun will generate and release up to 20,000 IU vitamin D-3 into the circulation.” Hollis has also established that pregnant and lactating women need as much as 6,000 IU daily to provide for their own and their infants’ needs (Hollis, BW. J Bone Miner Res 2007;22, suppl 2:V39-44). The IOM’s low recommendations attempt to take us back to the Dark Ages of vitamin D knowledge.
4. The fact that up to 20,000 IU of vitamin D can be produced by sunlight exposure (the natural source of vitamin D) defines the IOM recommendation of 600 IU as being ludicrous. 600 IU is produced in summer sunlight in less than one minute in a light skinned individual. If God or nature created a system that produces such a vast quantity of D, there is a reason for it, and it is obvious that 5,000 IU per day is not harmful. Dr. Reinhold Vieth has presented compelling information that there is no evidence of any toxicity or adverse effects at prolonged intakes of 10,000 IU per day (Vieth, R Ann Epidemiol;2009;19:441-5).
5. The IOM also inexplicably recommended the same vitamin D intake for infants as for adults (600 IU), which to any reasonable person, is illogical.
6. The IOM used only bone health to make its recommendations, but bone health is a terrible indicator of adequate vitamin D levels because only very small quantities of vitamin D are adequate to ensure bone health. The IOM, by ignoring both observational and randomized controlled trials showing that low levels of vitamin D correlate to a multitude of health problems including cancer, heart disease, depression, influenza, Multiple Sclerosis, and autism, has done a dreadful disservice to those struggling with these and other health issues that are impacted by low vitamin D levels.
7. Ironically, the IOM consulted with several leading vitamin D researchers but then completely ignored their recommendations. This indicates a bias that may extend beyond simple ignorance and descend into the realm of concealing information.
Another of the most prolific researchers in the vitamin D field, Dr. William Grant, gave the Sunlight Institute this statement regarding his feelings about the IOM report:
“The Dietary Reference Intakes for Vitamin D and Calcium committee of the Institute of Medicine of the National Academies was essentially a tool of the agencies that funded the study, including the Food and Drug Administration and the National Institutes of Health. Federal sponsors defined the key questions, and a technical expert panel was assembled to refine the questions and establish inclusion and exclusion criteria for the studies to be reviewed. By excluding ecological studies and case-control studies in which serum 25(OH)D levels were measured at time of diagnosis, they in essence dictated the conclusion that vitamin D has no health benefits other than for healthy bones. Since 90% of our vitamin D comes from the sun, they throw out 90% of the evidence. The work of this committee contrasts with well-conducted scientific reviews such as that by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, which included over 600 scientists contributing to the report and 500 scientists as reviewers. The process was open rather than behind closed doors and resulted in a Nobel Prize for the contributors. If only health policy were treated as a science instead of a business tool.” William B. Grant, Sunlight, Nutrition and Health Research Center (SUNARC), San Francisco
In putting forth its report, the IOM has destroyed any credibility it might have had with those who conduct the science of vitamin D. The IOM has misled the public and placed itself on a level with those who, in the past, ignorantly told us to avoid sunlight exposure at all costs. If the public follows their recommendations we will return to the Dark Ages of health awareness; the report is an absurd suppression of critically important research.