Too Many Vitamins?

An Institute of Medicine committee report released yesterday may have overturned popular wisdom. It is commonly believed that many North Americans suffer from calcium and Vitamin D deficiencies. However, the committee found that most are getting sufficient amounts of both vitamins and may actually damage their health by taking additional supplements.

“We are aware of reports and media attention to the idea that Americans and Canadians might have widespread Vitamin D deficiency,” announced Catherine Ross of Pennsylvania State University, a nutritionist and leader of the study.

Vitamin supplements are big business. The Nutrition Business Journal estimates sales of calcium supplements to have reached $1.2 billion in 2009, with Vitamin D sales rising 82% that year to $430 million. Adults in North America require 400 International Units of Vitamin D, while those seventy-one or older may need a daily dose of up to 800 IU. But even with no exposure to natural sunlight, the study found that most North American get enough Vitamin D.

“National surveys in both the United States and Canada indicate that most people receive enough calcium, with the exception of girls ages nine to eighteen, who often do not take in enough calcium, the report stated. “In contrast,” the report continued, “post-menopausal women taking supplements may be getting too much calcium, thereby increasing their risk for kidney stones.”