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November 30th, 2010
08:00 AM ET

Extra vitamin D and calcium pills may do more harm than good

(CNN) - Vitamin D and calcium have long been touted as the best nutrients for strong bones, muscles and teeth. Recent studies have shown that vitamin D could be used to fight cancer, heart ailments, autoimmune diseases, even diabetes.

But too much vitamin D can damage the kidneys and the heart. So what's the right balance?

After reviewing nearly 1,000 published studies on vitamin D and calcium, the Institute of Medicine on Tuesday recommended that most Americans and Canadians up to age 70, who are not pregnant, need no more than 600 international units (IUs) of vitamin D per day to maintain good health. People over age 70 may need as much as 800 IUs.

Today on American Morning, John Roberts and Kiran Chetry talk to Elizabeth Cohen, senior medical correspondent, about the latest recommendations.

Read more here.

Filed under: Health
soundoff (6 Responses)
  1. Jose Rojas

    Thsi may or may notbe true for standard off the shelf Vitamin D. But I think that Vitamin D3 is the safest supplement and the real one that boost immnune sysytem and fight off cancer and other ailments. Check it out in You Tube " Vitamin D3" and research done in germany etc.

    December 1, 2010 at 11:20 pm |
  2. Vitamin D Council

    After 13 year of silence, the quasi governmental agency, the Institute of Medicine's (IOM) Food and Nutrition Board (FNB), today recommended that a three-pound premature infant take virtually the same amount of vitamin D as a 300 pound pregnant woman. While that 400 IU/day dose is close to adequate for infants, 600 IU/day in pregnant women will do nothing to help the three childhood epidemics most closely associated with gestational and early childhood vitamin D deficiencies: asthma, auto-immune disorders, and, as recently reported in the largest pediatric journal in the world, autism. Professor Bruce Hollis of the Medical University of South Carolina has shown pregnant and lactating women need at least 5,000 IU/day, not 600.

    The FNB also reported that vitamin D toxicity might occur at an intake of 10,000 IU/day (250 micrograms/day), although they could produce no reproducible evidence that 10,000 IU/day has ever caused toxicity in humans and only one poorly conducted study indicating 20,000 IU/day may cause mild elevations in serum calcium, but not clinical toxicity.

    Viewed with different measure, this FNB report recommends that an infant should take 10 micrograms/day (400 IU) and a pregnant woman 15 micrograms/day (600 IU). As a single, 30 minute dose of summer sunshine gives adults more than 10,000 IU (250 micrograms), the FNB is apparently also warning that natural vitamin D input – as occurred from the sun before the widespread use of sunscreen – is dangerous. That is, the FNB is implying that God does not know what she is doing.

    Disturbingly, this FNB committee focused on bone health, just like they did 14 years ago. They ignored the thousands of studies from the last ten years that showed higher doses of vitamin D helps: heart health, brain health, breast health, prostate health, pancreatic health, muscle health, nerve health, eye health, immune health, colon health, liver health, mood health, skin health, and especially fetal health. Tens of millions of pregnant women and their breast-feeding infants are severely vitamin D deficient, resulting in a great increase in the medieval disease, rickets. The FNB report seems to reason that if so many pregnant women have low vitamin D blood levels then it must be OK because such low levels are so common. However, such circular logic simply represents the cave man existence (never exposed to the light of the sun) of most modern-day pregnant women.

    Hence, if you want to optimize your vitamin D levels – not just optimize the bone effect – supplementing is crucial. But it is almost impossible to significantly raise your vitamin D levels when supplementing at only 600 IU/day (15 micrograms). Pregnant women taking 400 IU/day have the same blood levels as pregnant women not taking vitamin D; that is, 400 IU is a meaninglessly small dose for pregnant women. Even taking 2,000 IU/day of vitamin D will only increase the vitamin D levels of most pregnant women by about 10 points, depending mainly on their weight. Professor Bruce Hollis has shown that 2,000 IU/day does not raise vitamin D to healthy or natural levels in either pregnant or lactating women. Therefore supplementing with higher amounts – like 5000 IU/day – is crucial for those women who want their fetus to enjoy optimal vitamin D levels, and the future health benefits that go along with it.

    For example, taking only two of the hundreds of recently published studies: Professor Urashima and colleagues in Japan, gave 1,200 IU/day of vitamin D3 for six months to Japanese 10-year-olds in a randomized controlled trial. They found vitamin D dramatically reduced the incidence of influenza A as well as the episodes of asthma attacks in the treated kids while the placebo group was not so fortunate. If Dr. Urashima had followed the newest FNB recommendations, it is unlikely that 400 IU/day treatment arm would have done much of anything and some of the treated young teenagers may have come to serious harm without the vitamin D. Likewise, a randomized controlled prevention trial of adults by Professor Joan Lappe and colleagues at Creighton University, which showed dramatic improvements in the health of internal organs, used more than twice the FNB's new adult recommendations.

    Finally, the FNB committee consulted with 14 vitamin D experts and – after reading these 14 different reports – the FNB decided to suppress their reports. Many of these 14 consultants are either famous vitamin D researchers, like Professor Robert Heaney at Creighton or, as in the case of Professor Walter Willett at Harvard, the single best-known nutritionist in the world. So, the FNB will not tell us what Professors Heaney and Willett thought of their new report? Why not?

    Today, the Vitamin D Council directed our attorney to file a federal Freedom of Information (FOI) request to the IOM's FNB for the release of these 14 reports.

    Most of my friends, hundreds of patients, and thousands of readers of the Vitamin D Council newsletter (not to mention myself), have been taking 5,000 IU/day for up to eight years. Not only have they reported no significant side-effects, indeed, they have reported greatly improved health in multiple organ systems. My advice, especially for pregnant women: continue taking 5,000 IU/day until your 25(OH)D is between 50-80 ng/mL (the vitamin D blood levels obtained by humans who live and work in the sun and the mid-point of the current reference ranges at all American laboratories). Gestational vitamin D deficiency is not only associated with rickets, but a significantly increased risk of neonatal pneumonia, a doubled risk for preeclampsia, a tripled risk for gestational diabetes, and a quadrupled risk for primary cesarean section.

    Today, the FNB has failed millions of pregnant women whose as yet unborn babies will pay the price. Let us hope the FNB will comply with the spirit of "transparency" by quickly responding to our Freedom of Information requests.

    December 1, 2010 at 7:35 am |
  3. marypinnix

    Yes most of the brands do give out samples of their products. Look for "123 Get Samples" online and get the samples. They are the best. You wont need CC.

    December 1, 2010 at 4:41 am |
  4. John

    Heres a thought never once did they mention to get your blood tested to see if your levels are NORMAL!!. There is no ~norm~ of anything. GET TESTED twice a year.

    November 30, 2010 at 12:11 pm |
  5. Julie

    Well, according to wikipedia. 50,000 units of vitamin D is too much and can damage kidneys Most supplements are only 200 units. You would have to take bottles of the stuff in order to get kidney heart damage. But, who in their right mind could do this? More old people have osteoporosis. The benefits outweigh the harm drastically.
    I am amazed at some Institute of Medicine describing this over dose of Vitamin D to be harmful? Cancer MS and other des eases dramatically reduced by taking this vitamin.
    I would rather research be done on chemically altered and forced fed meat and corn, seeds by Monsanto corp that is turning our food industry into some mega controlled automated abuse of animals that lead to dangerous uncontrollable death diseases. U-tube has some very great information on fast foods, but, how they are destroying the life of animals. Check out Food Inc.
    I began this morning as vegetarian, without SOY Corn anything. The outrage is on.....


    November 30, 2010 at 10:47 am |
  6. Edward Quinto

    I am a firm believer in the health-promoting effect of Vitamin D. I take 800 IU of Vitamin D daily, 400 IU from a complete vitamin-mineral supplement and 400 IU from fish oil. I also believe that an upper ceiling of 1,000 IU is just OK and I would even recommend high doses but not megadoses of Vitamin D for people suffering from Tuberculosis and other respiratory diseases. Vitamin D together with calcium should enhance the healing of lung tissues liquefied and damaged by the tubercle bacilli. It should also enhanced the ability of lung tissues to contain and encase the TB bacilli thus preventing pathogenicity and spreading. There is so much hype for Vitamins A, C, and E which should not be the case. Increasing Vitamin A can cause hypervitaminosis that can damage the liver and too much Vitamin E shortens the lifespan as shown by previous studies. Never take 2 or more vitamin supplements daily to increase your Vitamin D level because doing so puts one in danger of increasing as well the intake of Vitamin A which in high doses I believe is more toxic than Vitamin D. So lets give Vitamin D, the most underrated vitamin a break and see what it can really do for healthy living.

    November 30, 2010 at 10:21 am |