Minn. doctor takes issue with new vitamin D recommendations

10:13 AM, Dec 1, 2010   |    comments
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MINNEAPOLIS -- Vitamin D and calcium have long been touted as two of the best things for strong bones, muscles and teeth.  But get too much and some experts say vitamin D may damage the kidneys and heart.

The Institute of Medicine (IOM) released new recommendations Tuesday on just how much vitamin D and calcium you should get.

Catharine Ross, Ph.D., with the Institute of Medicine, said, "The health status of the U.S. population for vitamin D and calcium is really better than some had suggested it is."

Many Americans concerned about bone health take vitamin supplements. The IOM report said most Americans get good amounts through diet.

It now recommends adults get around 1000 milligrams of calcium and 600 international units of vitamin D daily, with a slightly higher doses of each for the elderly.

But Dr. Gregory Plotnikoff of Allina's Penny George Institute for Health and Healing said, "The report is deficient because it's too easily misinterpreted.  They focus strictly on osteoporosis and the general population."

Plotnikoff said vitamin D not only helps with osteoporosis. He said, "There is strong evidence for seasonal affective disorder, diabetes, heart disease, cancer, auto immune disease."

And he says a majority of Minnesotans don't get enough vitamin D because we don't get enough sun to help us make it September through April.

Plotnikoff led a recent study where vitamin D levels of more than 10,000 health professionals were measured and he said, "63 percent came back low, less than the recommended measurement amounts and 6 percent came back profoundly low."

For those with low levels he says taking 600 units a day may not be enough. In fact, sometimes he prescribes 4,000 units or more.  That's the absolute upper limit being recommended by the IOM.

Plotnikoff said, "People who are taking high doses with being monitored by their health professional need not worry."

Still, according to the IOM, too much vitamin D could harm your health.  Ross said, "We have no evidence, no scientific evidence that more than these recommended dietary allowances is better so why would you go above it?"

Dr. Plotnikoff said having the same vitamin D recommendations for people who live in Alaska and Florida, people of different skin tones and of different sizes makes no scientific sense.  He said all those factors contribute to vitamin D levels.

He said he has seen vitamin D supplements dramatically improve the lives of Minnesota patients with conditions like chronic pain and metabolic syndrome. 

He urges Minnesotans to have their vitamin D levels checked. 

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