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New vitamin D study backs benefits of higher-dose guidelines

A new study that found high-dose vitamin D supplementation helped lower risk for heart disease—and boost survival—is a data point in favor of experts who have long said the IOM guidelines are still too low.

Here’s welcome research news for vitamin D specialists who have long been saying that the official guidelines for D—which the IOM recently raised to 600 IU daily—are still too low.

Taking at least 1,000 IU of vitamin D significantly reduced risk of cardiovascular disease (CVD) and diabetes and improved survival rates for older people, according to a new study in the American Journal of Cardiology.

“Many previous studies of vitamin D supplementation have used doses of 400 to 800 IU, which may not be adequate to ensure optimal serum levels, with more appropriate daily supplement doses shown as 1,000 to 2,000 IU,” wrote the University of Kansas researchers.

Granted, this is just one study, but it serves as a data point that helps push the needle toward higher official dose recommendations that have been long advocated by the Vitamin D Council and others.

A whopping 70 percent of study's patients (average age 58) were found to be deficient in D, a percentage that reflects estimates for the U.S. population. (Deficient was defined as having blood levels of the storage form of D lower than 30ng/mL.)

Among the deficient group, the risk of overall mortality was a whopping 164 percent higher—but taking vitamin D supplements increased their survival risk 61 percent.

How to help shoppers navigate dosage for vitamin D

Earlier this winter, I talked to Lani Jacobs-Banner, education program coordinator for Vitamin Cottage Natural Grocers about their in-store campaign to inform shoppers about “Vitamin D Winter,” a latitude-dependent season when it’s almost impossible for the body to make enough D on its own.

Because the 600 IU IOM guidelines, she said, many shoppers believe taking more could be dangerous. “That’s not true for most individuals,” she told me. (For more on safety research, read Vitamin D: Can you take took much?) In fact, “600 IU will support bone health, but it may not be enough to support long-term health, especially with the action D seems to have on gene expression, including immunity.”

Of course, it’s always a good idea to advise shoppers to get their blood levels tested by a doctor before opting for a significantly higher dose or supplementing long-term with D, or other nutrients.

Do you take vitamin D, and if so, how much do you take? Should the IOM's recommendations be raised or not?

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