Andrew Weil, M.D., is the author of several books on nutritional health and integrative medicine, including the 2005 bestseller, Healthy Aging: A Lifelong Guide to Your Physical and Spiritual Well-Being.
He's also the Founder and Director of the Center for Integrative Medicine at the University of Arizona, which trains physicians in nutrition… much more deeply than medical schools do.
Dr. Weil's response to the IOM report
However, in that article he also noted that the same studies he covered found that diets rich in high-calcium foods such as dairy, canned bone-in fish, green leafy vegetables are associated with reduced cardiovascular risks.
Dr. Weil was kind enough to send us his response to the recent U.S. Institute of Medicine (IOM) report on vitamin D and calcium, which raised the RDAs for vitamin D (see “Vitamin D RDAs Raised Substantially” in this issue).
His take on the IOM report and actions came to us in the form of answers to two questions:
- What's your reaction to the decision to raise the recommended vitamin D intake but not as high as the amount you advise?
- Will you change your recommendations for vitamin D or calcium in response to the amounts now recommended?
Here's what Dr. Weil wrote… you will find a succinct summary of vitamin D science on his website:
“First, some background for those who haven't followed the latest news on vitamin D and calcium. On November 3, 2010, the Institute of Medicine (IOM), an arm of the U.S. National Academy of Sciences, recommended increasing the amount of dietary vitamin D most Americans and Canadians should get daily to 600 international units (IUs), triple the 200 IUs recommended in 1997.
“The IOM said it based its recommendation on levels of vitamin D needed for bone strength and said that there isn't enough evidence to demonstrate that low vitamin D causes chronic diseases, as some new research suggests.
“In fact, low levels of D have been linked through population studies with a higher incidence of auto-immune diseases, a number of types of cancer, psoriasis, and diabetes.
“The IOM recommended that everyone from infancy through age 70 get 600 IUs of vitamin D daily and that those over age 71 get 800 IUs daily.
“I disagree with these conclusions and will continue to recommend that everyone get 2000 IU of dietary vitamin D daily.
“As for calcium, the IOM recommended:
700 mg per day for children aged one through three;
1,000 mg daily for kids aged 4 through 8;
No more than 1300mg daily for those aged 9 through 18.
“The IOM said that 1000mg daily is enough for adults aged 19 through 50 and that beginning at age 51 for women and at age 71 for men, the recommended amount is 1,200 mg daily.
“My calcium recommendations also remain the same: women who don't get adequate calcium from their diets should supplement with 500 to 700 mg of calcium citrate in two divided doses taken with meals, for a total daily intake of 1,000 to 1,200 mg from all sources.
“Men should aim for 500mg from all sources. I don't recommend calcium supplements for men. (Higher amounts have been linked to increased risks of prostate cancer.) Men should also watch their dairy intake.
[Editor's note, Nov 1, 2018: In a 2017 article on his website, Dr. Weil noted that two then-recent studies found some possible risks associated with higher-dose calcium supplementation. As he wrote, "A recent (2016) investigation from Johns Hopkins did suggest that taking calcium supplements may lead to heart damage and another from Sweden linked the supplements to a risk of dementia in some women."]
“I was interested in the comments of my friend and colleague, vitamin D researcher Michael Holick, M.D., Ph.D., in news reports of the IOM recommendations.
“Dr. Holick told National Public Radio that he sees no downside to increasing your vitamin D intake:
‘When I've been recommending for the past decade that people take more than the [officially recommended] 200 units, there was a lot of skepticism. Now they're recommending three times what we recommended in 1997. I suspect a decade from now that they'll be recommending another three- or fourfold higher increase.'
“I agree. What's more, I don't think there is any possibility of harm in taking the vitamin D dosage I recommend. AND I believe evidence will continue to come in supporting the preventive benefits of the dosage I recommend, and possibly even higher.”
– Andrew Weil, M.D.
- Michos ED et al. Calcium Intake From Diet and Supplements and the Risk of Coronary Artery Calcification and its Progression Among Older Adults: 10‐Year Follow‐up of the Multi‐Ethnic Study of Atherosclerosis (MESA). Journal of the American Heart Association, October 11, 2016, doi:10.1161/JAHA.116.003815
- Jürgen Kern, Silke Kern et al. Calcium supplementation and risk of dementia in women with cerebrovascular disease. Neurology, August 17, 2016, doi: http://dx.doi.org/10.1212/WNL