The Institute of Medicine (IOM) ruffled some health practitioner feathers and likely caused consumer confusion with the new vitamin D and calcium recommendations its Food and Nutrition Board (FNB) released to the American public on Nov. 29. The new guidelines triggered a landslide of mainstream press coverage, some of it questioning the need for and even safety of vitamin D supplementation.

In its recommendations, the IOM’s FNB advocated a doubling of vitamin D intake for infants (to 400 IU), a tripling of vitamin D intake for those between ages 1 and 50 (to 600 IU), a 50 percent hike in those ages 51 to 70 (to 600 IU), and a 33 percent increase for those older than 71 years old (to 800 IU). On calcium, the report said post-menopausal women should be cautious about calcium intake over concerns about kidney stones, though they advocated adolescent girls are most in need and should increase their calcium intake to 1,300 mg/day.

The IOM also said that most people receive the recommended total intake of vitamin D from food and that the number of people in the United States and Canada who are vitamin D deficient may have been overestimated because of inconsistent testing methods.

These points were reiterated during a Nov. 30 IOM briefing about the recommendations. When asked whether The New York Times’ headline, “Extra Vitamin D and Calcium Are Not Needed, Report Says,” accurately conveyed the message from the IOM report, FNB Committee Chair Catharine A. Ross said: That’s not quite the message that we would hope for in the headline. … These are recommendations for intake from all sources of diet and supplement. We are saying that for a goodly portion of the population, it is possible to obtain the calcium and vitamin D at these recommended levels from diet.”

Added FNB Committee Member Steven Clinton: “The New York Timesarticle as a whole is very well written and is a reasonable message for the readers. The headline is just a little bit too strong for what the report really is saying. But I think it will hopefully stimulate some folks to read the article, where the information, I think, is a little more balanced.”