Is the Vitamin D Debate Settled Once and For All?

As I mentioned the other day, the new Dietary Reference Intakes for Vitamin D and Calcium just came out.  I’ve been waiting all month for this.  Apparently none of you were counting down the days until the 30th like I was.  I mean, this could be huge.  This could confirm if it is true what we have been thinking for quite some time now – that the RDA (recommended daily allowance) for Vitamin D is woefully inadequate.  Currently many practitioners, myself included, have been recommending much higher doses of Vitamin D based on research and blood tests showing many people in the Northwest are deficient.  Do you take a supplement?  I myself take between 1,000-2,500 IU/day and know of others who take upwards of 5,000 IU/day.  The research seemed pretty consistent that we weren’t getting enough.  So what did the Institute of Medicine conclude?

After what I can only assume has been many months discussion and debate  (they reviewed over 1,000 research papers apparently), the panel concluded that indeed the RDA should be raised, however the raise was modest.  Now instead of 400 IU/day, most of us should be getting around 600 IU/day.  Hmmm.
Many MD’s and other practitioners commented in related articles that they were disappointed with the new recommendations, stating that the IOM was being overly cautious. I tend to agree, however I also agree with those who support the IOM’s position and think a little caution is prudent.  Not too long ago we thought high doses of Vitamin A might be the next cure-all … until it was found to be harmful and immediately stopped.  There just are not enough quality, long-term studies to definitively tell us what the best and safest levels are.  Unfortunately we do the general public a disservice if we recommend to little, and yet we can potentially cause more harm than good if we suggest too much. 
I think my take-away from this is to continue suggesting Vitamin D testing and evaluating  dietary Vitamin D intake before considering a supplementation regimen.  Any supplement use should be discussed thoroughly with one’s MD (as I always recommend), and dosages above the new RDA should probably be discontinued once adequate blood levels have been achieved.  I think there will be ongoing controversy over this topic, but hopefully that will prompt the research to continue.

So in the meantime, get your blood levels checked.  Many MD’s are including this with routine lab work nowadays, but just ask.  Check your diet for Vitamin D sources.  What are good food sources?  There actually aren’t many.  A few good sources include salmon, shrimp, sardines and certain mushrooms.  Eggs also have a little. And many products are fortified (milk, cheese, cereals).  Some sunlight might be your best bet, but the American Cancer Society might disagree (I’m just saying).  Then decide if supplementation is right for you.  I am going to keep taking mine, in case you were wondering.

Since salmon is one of the best Vitamin D sources, I thought I would conclude with a recipe that features this Vitamin-D powerhouse.  We are at least lucky here in the Northwest that while we don’t have much sunlight, we do have an abundance of fresh salmon. =)

Teriyaki Salmon
  • 1/4 cup tamari
  • 1 tbsp sugar
  • 2 tbsp mirin
  • 1 tbsp sake or shaoshing (Chinese rice wine)
  • 4 skinless salmon fillets
  • 1 tbsp black or white sesame seeds (optional)
To Prepare:
  1. Combine tamari, sugar, mirin and sake in small bowl.  Stir to dissolve the sugar.  
  2. Place fish in a shallow dish.  Pour tamari mixutre over the fish and place in fridge for 20-30 minutes to marinate.
  3. Preheat the oven to 350 F.  Line a baking tray with baking paper.  Place fish on tray and pour over the marinade.  Bake 8-10 minutes, until just cooked.
  4. Sprinkle with sesame seeds, if desired.
  5. Serve with rice and vegetables.
  6. Bon Apetit! 

Danielle VenHuizen, MS, RDN

Registered Dietitian, Certified LEAP Therapist