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Carolyn Hax

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Posted at 11:30 AM ET, 03/30/2011

About one-quarter of Americans at risk for vitamin D ‘inadequacy’

We’ve been hearing a lot lately about vitamin D. But just how many Americans are deficient in the so-called ”sunshine vitamin.” Well, not that many, according to a new report.

The National Academy of Sciences, Institute of Medicine recently released new recommendations for how much vitamin D people should be getting on a regular basis. Despite mounting pressure to urge many Americans to sharply boost their vitamin D levels, they did not advocate a huge increase. A 14-member expert committee concluded that most Americans and Canadians up to age 70 need no more than 600 international units of vitamin D per day. The elderly may need as much as 800, the committee concluded.

Previously, experts called for children and younger adults get 200 international units a day, adults ages 50 to 70 to get 400 and the elderly to get 600. But a flurry of research indicating that vitamin D may have a dizzying array of health benefits, and that many people may have insufficient levels, had reignited an intense debate over whether federal guidelines were outdated, leaving millions unnecessarily vulnerable to heart disease, cancer, diabetes, the flu and other ailments.

Some doctors have begun routinely testing their patients’ vitamin D levels and recommending that people should consume 2,000 or 3,000 international units a day. Sales of vitamin D supplements have increased sharply in recent years.

In the new report, the National Center for Health Statistics examined data collected between 2001 and 2006 and found that two-thirds of people had levels considered “sufficient” under the new guidelines, which is defined as between 50 and 125 nanomoles per liter. About one-quarter had levels that “put them at risk of inadequacy,” which is defined as between 30 and 49 nanomoles per liter. Just 8 percent were at risk for for being “deficient,” which is defined as blood levels below 30 nanomoles per liter. Interestingly, 1 percent had levels considered dangerously high.

“Most persons in the United State are sufficient in vitamin D,” the report concludes.

By  |  11:30 AM ET, 03/30/2011

 
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