RODALE NEWS, EMMAUS, PA—Though sales of vitamin D supplements have skyrocketed—growing faster than those of any other supplement—the recent Institute of Medicine (IOM) report on vitamin D may bring expectations for the vitamin back down to earth. Research suggesting that vitamin D protects against cancer, heart disease, autoimmune diseases, and diabetes have lead some people to take high doses of the vitamin. But while the IOM did raise the suggested Dietary Reference Intake (DRI), they didn't bring it as high as vitamin D believers had hoped. For most people, the new DRI for vitmain D is 600 International Units (IU) of vitamin D daily. Since there is a greater chance that elderly individuals may fall short, the IOM says that those 71 and older may need as much as 800 IU daily.
It remains important to make sure you’re getting enough, as the vitamin is essential for calcium absorption and bone health, along with other processes within the body. Although sunlight triggers our skin to produce vitamin D, sun exposure varies greatly among people, so the committee assumed minimal sun exposure when establishing these new DRIs.
It's difficult to meet or exceed the DRI for vitamin D without taking a multivitamin or supplement, but it's a good idea to get at least some of your vitamin D from food sources. Salmon is an excellent source; very good sources include sardines, shrimp, and milk. Cod and eggs are other good bets. Wild-caught salmon has been shown to contain significantly more vitamin D than non-sustainably farmed fish, on average. Four ounces of baked or broiled salmon contains 411 IU of vitamin D, while a 3.25-ounce can of sardines provides 250 IUs. Four ounces of steamed or boiled shrimp contains 162 IU, and a cup of 2% milk will supply you with 97 IU.