Calcium and Vitamin D Supplements Largely Unnecessary

Dec 1, 2010
Outside Magazine

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Courtesy of bradley j on Flickr.

Taking supplemental calcium and vitamin D, which has been widely recommended by doctors, is not necessary in most cases according to a panel of medical researchers convened by the Institute of Medicine, the New York Times reports. The researchers, who hailed mostly from university medical faculties, concluded that most people receive enough of both substances with a normal diet and limited time outdoors.

In fact, the panel compiled evidence suggesting that too much of either vitamin D or calcium could be detrimental to one's health. An excess of calcium has been linked to an increased risk for kidney stones and may increase the risk of heart disease, while an excess of vitamin D - which threshold is debated - may cause a higher risk for fractures and has been directly linked to a higher overall death rate.

There are of course exceptions and dissenters. Adolescent girls do actually need more calcium on average. Supplements can certainly fill that need. Objectors also note that the exact levels of calcium and vitamin D that the body needs are disputed and are not uniform across individuals.

However the thrust of the panel's statements indicate that their intention was primarily to have the medical industries - some of which have profitted mightily from the sale of these supplements in the past - take another look at the actual needs of a human body. A single dose of a common over-the-counter vitamin D supplement contains almost twice that necessary for one day.

--Riley Blanton

Filed To: Politics, Nutrition

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