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You may need to down a few more glasses of milk to help meet new dietary recommendations for vitamin D.
The report from the influential Institute of Medicine comes as the so-called sunshine vitamin is drawing increased attention and debate over its potential health benefits.
Local doctors say the report's recommended higher levels of vitamin D are still too low.
“It's nowhere near enough,'' said Dr. Robert Heaney, a professor of medicine and vitamin D researcher at Creighton University.
Dr. Lynn Mack of the University of Nebraska Medical Center said the recommendation in the report released Tuesday was a good start but should have gone higher.
For a child or adult under age 50, the recommendations call for 600 international units per day, up from the 200 that the institute last recommended more than a decade ago.
Two hundred units equals about two cups of milk, and 600 units equals about six cups.
But it's far below the 2,000 units a day that some scientists recommend, pointing to studies suggesting that people with low levels of vitamin D are at increased risk of certain cancers or heart disease.
Heaney said the average adult needs between 1,000 and 3,000 units per day not just to keep bones healthy but also to reduce the risk for cancer and other ailments. He said a couple of over-the-counter vitamin D tablets would easily provide that amount. Blood tests are the best way to determine vitamin D levels, he said.
But the co-author of the institute report cautioned against too much vitamin D.
“More is not necessarily better,” said Dr. Joann Manson of Harvard Medical School.
High amounts of vitamin D have been linked to kidney stones and other health problems. But Heaney said a person would need to be taking more than 10,000 units per day to cause any troubles.
Some doctors also disagreed with a part of the report that looked at whether most people already are getting enough vitamin D. The report said that while some people are seriously deficient in vitamin D, the average American already has enough in his or her blood. We make vitamin D from sun exposure, and many people already take multivitamins or other D-containing dietary supplements.
The report also said there's no proof that megadoses of vitamin D prevent cancer or other ailments. But Heaney and Mack said there is research evidence that vitamin D can reduce the risk for certain cancers and other diseases, including diabetes.
To help settle the issue, Manson is heading a government-funded study that's recruiting 20,000 healthy older Americans to test whether taking 2,000 units of vitamin D will lower their risk for heart disease, a stroke or certain cancers.
The Institute of Medicine is part of the National Academy of Sciences. Federal agencies often use recommendations from the institute when updating dietary guidelines.
This report includes material from the Associated Press.
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