Vitamin D and calcium study questions use of supplements

Supplement

Nutritional supplements of vitamin D and calcium may be helping people overdose. Image: Flickr / cleanwalmart / CC-BY

Vitamin D and calcium have long been touted as needed for strong bones and teeth. Vitamin D may play a role in preventing cancer and autoimmune diseases. A new review of studies by the Institute of Medicine indicates that most people may actually be getting enough of these nutrients, possibly too much.

Institute of Medicine studies vitamin D

There have been more than 1,000 published studies about the use and benefits of calcium and vitamin D in recent years. The Institute of Medicine has reviewed these studies to find commonalities.The Institute of Medicine acts as an adviser to the U.S. government and is a nonprofit agency. Its review of vitamin D and calcium finds that most people will not benefit from more than 600 to 800 international units (IU) of vitamin D and 700 to 1,300 milligrams per day.

Benefits of vitamin D and calcium

Scientists have not yet been able to find exactly how vitamin D works in the body. It can be absorbed through sunlight or ingested from food and supplements. A healthy level of vitamin D has been found to help prevent diabetes, multiple sclerosis, lupus and other autoimmune diseases. The theory is that vitamin D helps regulate the genes that affect these diseases. Vitamin D and calcium are usually found in similar foods — cheeses, milk, oily fish and nuts.

Too much vitamin D could hurt

Though vitamin D and calcium are very important in the body and may help prevent disease, too much can be a bad thing as well. Too much vitamin D can cause kidney damage and build plaque in the heart. Many supplements contain significant amounts of vitamin D, and it is possible that many people are overdosing by taking supplements. In a decently balanced diet, most people should be able to get enough vitamin D from their food. If you are taking a supplement, it is important to consider the amount of vitamin D you are ingesting.

Sources

CNN.com
Business Week

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