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Vitamin D levels are adequate in most Americans, survey finds

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March 30, 2011|By Shari Roan, Los Angeles Times
  • Most Americans get enough vitamin D, a new survey concludes.
Most Americans get enough vitamin D, a new survey concludes. (Kirk McKoy / Los Angeles…)

Vitamin D levels in most Americans are adequate, with only 8% of the population at risk for health problems because of low vitamin D, according to a government report.

Vitamin D is one confusing nutrient. Numerous studies in recent years have linked deficiency to a range of health problems and disease risk, including cancer, autoimmune diseases and diabetes. The nutrient also has a well-defined role in bone health. Some doctors and researchers have called for an increase in the recommended dietary intake of vitamin D.

But in a report released late last year, the Institute of Medicine declined to raise the values saying: "The IOM finds that the evidence supports a role for vitamin D and calcium in bone health but not in other health conditions. Further, emerging evidence indicates that too much of these nutrients may be harmful, challenging the concept that “more is better.”

The survey released Wednesday affirms the IOM's conclusion that most Americans are getting enough vitamin D based on the current recommendations. Using data from 2001 through 2006, researchers found that 67% of Americans had sufficient levels of the nutrient in their blood (50 to 125 nanomoles per liter). An additional 24% of people were at risk of inadequate levels (levels of 30 to 49 nmol/L). Eight percent of people were at risk of deficiency (less than 30 nmol/L).

The survey found that 1% had blood levels that were too high (greater than 125 nmol/L), putting them at risk of health problems .

The risk of deficiency was lowest in children ages 1 to 8 and increased thereafter until about age 30. Deficiency rates did not vary much in people ages 30 and older.

The data was drawn from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Surveys. The project examines a nationally representative sample of about 5,000 people each year around the United States.

Related: New vitamin D recommendations: What they mean

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