New Guidelines Put Focus on Vitamin D Deficiency

WEDNESDAY June 8, 2011 -- It has long been known that getting enough vitamin D is key to bone health, yet vitamin D deficiency remains a common health issue, experts say.

According to the Endocrine Society, very few foods naturally contain or are fortified with vitamin D, and sunlight is one of the best sources of the nutrient.

People who don't get enough vitamin D are at risk for calcium, phosphorus and bone metabolism abnormalities, which can lead to a number of diseases, including osteoporosis. Children with a vitamin D deficiency can also develop skeletal deformities known as rickets, the experts pointed out in a society news release.

"Vitamin D deficiency is very common in all age groups, and it is important that physicians and health-care providers have the best evidence-based recommendations for evaluating, treating and preventing vitamin D deficiency in patients at highest risk," Dr. Michael F. Holick, of Boston University School of Medicine, said in the news release. Holick chairs a task force that authored the society's new clinical practice guidelines published in the July issue of the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism.

The Endocrine Society issued the guidelines in response to the possible health risks associated with vitamin D deficiency. Among the group's recommendations:

  • People who are considered at high risk should be routinely screened for vitamin D deficiency.
  • People who are diagnosed with a vitamin D deficiency should be treated with either a vitamin D2 or vitamin D3 supplement.

To maximize bone health and muscle function, people considered at high risk for a deficiency should adhere to the following guidelines for dietary intake of vitamin D:

  • Infants up to 12 months of age require at least 400 international units (IU) a day.
  • Children older than 1 year and adults from 19 to 70 years old, including pregnant and lactating women, should consume at least 600 IU daily.
  • People older than 70 years should get a minimum of 800 IU a day.

The task force stressed that in order to raise the blood level of vitamin D consistently above 30 nanograms per milliliter, a significantly higher intake of vitamin D may be required. The group also noted that vitamin D screening is not necessary for people who are not considered at risk for the deficiency. And, it said there is no evidence supporting use of vitamin D supplements for benefits other than bone health.

More information

The U.S. Office of Dietary Supplements has more on vitamin D.

Posted: June 2011


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