Harvard backs vitamin D supplements

By Rod Addy

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: Vitamin, Nutrition, Vitamin d

Dietary supplements are the key way to deliver consumers’ vitamin D requirements, according to the latest update from the Harvard Medical School, which otherwise backs vitamin intake primarily through foods.

The September Harvard Health Publications bulletin, which is issued to US consumers, stated: “It’s not an issue of food quantity, but rather food quality. Even a low-calorie diet can deliver all the vitamins and minerals you need, with one exception – vitamin D. So plan to take a vitamin D supplement.”

While foods such as cranberries and salmon did contain vitamin D, Dan Fabricant, interim executive director and chief executive officer of the supplements trade group Natural Products Association (NPA) told Nutraingredients-usa.com: “You can’t get much from foods. You can get it through sunlight, but it’s a lot easier to go ahead and take a supplement with 1,000 International Units (IU) of vitamin D.”

Andrew Shao, vice president, scientific and regulatory affairs, at the Council for Responsible Nutrition (CRN), another trade body, supported Fabricant. “While some experts may think it ideal that we get all the nutrients we need from food alone, the fact of the matter is that the majority of Americans don’t always eat as well as they should,” ​he told Nutraingredients-usa.com.

“Data from the National and Health and Nutrition Examination Survey show that many Americans, including children and adolescents, fail to consume recommended amounts of vitamins E, C and A as well as calcium and magnesium. A daily multivitamin could affordably and safely help fill these nutrient gaps.”

US vitamin D intake review

The problem was further compounded by continuing studies that are considering the thesis that the IU recommendation for vitamin D may need to be raised, said Fabricant.

The US and Canadian governments are sponsoring a US Institute of Medicine review of the issue, which began in April and is scheduled to be completed the summer of 2010.

“It’s not just the IOM – you’re seeing paediatric groups raising their recommendations for children to ward off asthma,”​ added Fabricant.

Commenting on perspectives such as the Harvard Medical School’s general view that consumers should focus on getting the vast majority of their required vitamins through food, Fabricant said: “Whatever planet they live on, I’d like to move there. I don’t know too many people who are getting everything they need through fruit and vegetables.”

Access to sufficient quantities of food to deliver these requirements was a major issue, he added.

Dietary supplements have faced heavy fire from the press for some time, with major mass media outlets earlier this year highlighting recent trials that failed to link vitamin supplements and disease prevention.

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