The Institute of Medicine released a new report called “Dietary Reference Intakes for Calcium and Vitamin D” after nearly two years of research, assessing nutrient intakes and identifying requirements and risks of inadequate status for children and adults of different ages.

The Institute of Medicine’s new report on Vitamin D recommendations, entitled “Dietary Reference Intakes (DRI) for Calcium and Vitamin D,” is based on a considerable body of science published since the IOM’s last review in 1997. Daily recommendations for the vitamin were increased from 200 IU (or 5 ug) for everyone under 50, and 400 IU (or 10 ug) for those 51-70 years old to 600 IU (or 15 ug) for everyone under 70 years old and from 600 IU (or 15ug) to 800 IU (20 ug) for those over 70.  

Vitamin D helps the body absorb calcium and is needed, along with calcium, to build strong bones. Vitamin D is also needed for muscular strength, to help maintain the immune system and to maintain nerves needed to carry messages between the brain and other body parts.

The body makes Vitamin D when the skin is directly exposed to the sun. But people who avoid the sun or use sunscreen to lower the risk of skin cancer, and those living in colder, more northern latitudes, or with darker skin pigmentation often don’t receive enough sun exposure to maintain adequate Vitamin D levels. Very few foods naturally have Vitamin D, so it’s important to consume milk, breakfast cereals and beverages fortified with Vitamin D. Only a limited number of foods and beverages can be fortified with Vitamin D at the present time, so most people need to obtain Vitamin D from dietary supplements.

This is important, as the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) compared Vitamin D intakes to 1997 and found that less than 75% of females over 14 and less than 55% of males over 14 were not consuming the recommended amount, even at the lower recommendations. Now that the DRI have been increased, even more people will have inadequate Vitamin D intakes.

While the new recommendations will benefit the overall public, there is significant scientific evidence demonstrating a potential need for Vitamin D intake at levels up to 2,000 IU daily for adults to maintain optimal blood levels ranging between 30 and 45 ng/mL, reports Andrew Shao, senior vice president of scientific and regulatory affairs, the Council for Responsible Nutrition (CRN).

The report recommends amounts are higher than what the guidelines set 13 years ago state, which were estimates, but the vitamin recommendations immediately drew criticism from some experts who said they are still far too low. The committee was surprised to see that most Americans are meeting their needs for both Vitamin D and calcium, which is recommended at 1,300 mg a day depending on a person’s age, except for adolescent girls who may not be getting enough calcium and some elderly people who don’t get enough either, says Catharine Ross, professor of nutrition at Pennsylvania State University and chairwoman of the panel that prepared the report. The IOM is set up by Congress to advise on a variety of health issues.