Vitamin D fortification needs to come from industry

By Clarisse Douaud

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: Vitamin, Vitamin d

Researchers are insisting that the upper limits for vitamin D
content in dietary supplements need to be increased and that foods
need to be fortified with the nutrient.

NutraIngredients-USA reported on a University of Pittsburgh Schools of the Health Sciences study this week that found 92.4 percent of African-American newborns and 66.1 percent of white babies studied had insufficient vitamin D levels at birth. "Either more foods should be fortified, or we need to encourage supplementation of certain populations, especially pregnant women,"​ lead study author Dr. Lisa Bodnar told NutraIngredients-USA. The study, which appears in the current issue of the Journal of Nutrition​, evaluates data from 200 black women and 200 white women, randomly selected between 1997 and 2001. The researchers found that more than 80 percent of the African-American participants and nearly half of the white women tested at delivery had levels of vitamin D that were too low, despite the fact that over 90 percent of them had taken prenatal vitamins during pregnancy. "The amount of vitamin D in supplements isn't nearly enough,"​ Dr. Robert Heaney – a professor at Creighton University School of Medicine who has conducted nearly two decades worth of research on vitamin D – told NutraIngredients-USA. "Our best estimate is that the body uses 4000 iu per day and the dietary reference intake for women up to the age of 50 is 200 iu per day."​ Now that vitamin D deficiency has become better documented and researched, Heaney said there is no more excuse to wait for fortification. "The principle obstacle has been we haven't known how much vitamin D we have needed until the past two years,"​ said Heaney. "We're just starting to understand the implications."​ Dr. Heaney securing widespread vitamin D fortification via the United States Food & Drug Administration is too long of process to wait for. Instead, the change will have to come from industry itself. "I think we'll see voluntary fortification,"​ said Heaney. "But the first thing that needs to be done is to raise public and professional awareness." ​ For Bodnar, the area is the aim is an ongoing scientific pursuit. "…we are working on a lot of research in the area of vitamin D,"​ said Bodnar. "We are focused on understanding the consequences of vitamin D deficiency for mothers and their infants."​ Heaney disagrees that significantly raising upper limits of vitamin D or widespread fortification could be accompanied by health risks. "You have to go well above 10,000 iu per day to get into unsafe levels,"​ said Heaney. Heaney's voice on the subject adds to several that have already been raised in favour of increasing vitamin D intake. A recent risk assessment by the US-based trade organisation, the Council for Responsible Nutrition (CRN) concluded that the UL could be raised to 10,000 IU (250 micrograms per day). Moreover two recent studies concluded that increasing the daily intake of vitamin D to 2000 International Units could halve the risk of developing breast and colorectal cancer, two studies have reported.​ References: Journal of Nutrition​ 2007 137: 447-452 Title: "High Prevalence of Vitamin D Insufficiency in Black and White Pregnant Women Residing in the Northern United States and Their Neonates."​ Author: Bodnar, Lisa M. et al. Journal of Steroid Biochemistry and Molecular Biology​ Published on-line ahead of print; doi: 10.1016/j.jsbmb.2006.12.007 "Vitamin D and prevention of breast cancer: Pooled analysis"​ Authors: C.F. Garland, E.D. Gorham, S.B. Mohr, W.B. Grant, E.L. Giovannucci, M. Lipkin, H. Newmark, M.F. Holick, F.C Garland American Journal of Preventive Medicine​ Volume 32, Number 3, Pages 210-216 "Optimal vitamin D status for colorectal cancer prevention – A quantitative meta-analysis"​ Authors: E.D. Gorham, C.F. Garland, F.C Garland, W.B. Grant, S.B. Mohr, M. Lipkin, H. Newmark, E.L. Giovannucci, M. Wei, M.F. Holick.

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