UV Exposure Not Advised For Meeting Vitamin D Requirements

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The Institute of Medicine (IOM) has released a remarkably in-depth report on vitamin D. It covers the newly revised daily recommended requirement, the possible effects of taking more than the maximum safe dose, and the effects of deficiency. The full report is over 600 pages in length, but highlights are available in a press release from the OIM. It is based on data extracted from literature on almost 1000 studies on the topic of vitamin D as well as interviews with scientists who are experts in this field.

Not all of the research conducted in the past was performed well. For example, studies done on the effects of UV exposure on vitamin D production don’t generally address variations in skin type. So, the meta-analysis takes into account the limitations of this data in drawing conclusions. Overall, the information available now is of higher quality than that used when the original recommended intake standards were created back in 1997.

American Academy of Dermatology’s Response

The AAD is planning to revise its patient information sheet on vitamin D as the result of the IOM report. What hasn’t changed is the organization’s stand on UV exposure for boosting vitamin D levels. With all its extensive analysis, the IOM was still unable to identify a safe level of sun exposure that increased vitamin D optimally without also increasing the risk of skin cancer.

The idea is still prevalent in the general population (and is promoted by the media) that exposing skin to the sun without using sunscreen is necessary to avoid vitamin D deficiency. The IOM report does address this notion. According to their findings, it is possible to maintain adequate levels of vitamin D in the body without sunbathing. In addition, it is now clear from a broad scale review of blood test results that most Americans are not actually deficient in this vitamin.

Overview of Updated Recommendations

The updated recommendation for dietary vitamin D is 600 international units (IUs) per day. Older individuals may need an increased amount. Calcium was also researched for the report and the dietary reference intake (DRI) for that essential mineral has also been clarified. These two substances work together to promote good bone health which is why they were both included in the study.

The upper limits for safe consumption for both vitamin D and calcium have also been established. For example, the maximum number of IUs of vitamin D is set at 4,000 for adults. This does not mean patients should try to consume thousands of units of vitamin D per day up to that maximum amount to achieve a greater health benefit. The daily recommended dose of 600 units is all that is required – even for individuals with minimal UV exposure. The upper limit is a warning guideline since excessive consumption of vitamin D may have adverse consequences.

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