EU doctors deciding on elderly vitamin D levels

By Shane Starling

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: Vitamin, Vitamin d

A group of European doctors is moving toward a vitamin D recommended level for the elderly, something that, if implemented, may influence vitamin D levels across the European Union for all age groups.

The Standing Committee of European Doctors (CPME) met recently at a vitamin D conference that drew several hundred scientists in Bruges in Belgium, and constructed a vitamin D recommended statement for the over75s at 600-800IU per day.

That statement was put to the CPME Board and General Assembly over the weekend and read:

"Vitamin D supplementation (600-800 IU D3) plus calcium should be considered for elderly people (older than 75 years) with an increased fracture and/or fall risk, in particular people living in nursing homes."

While a growing body of science indicates levels of 2000IU or more can yield greater benefits in terms of bone health for the elderly and younger groups, moving any recommendation forward, even a conservative one such as this, is welcomed as a step in the right direction, by most vitamin D players.

“Of course we would rather see limits that better reflect the available science but if the CPME approves this level then the case will grow for further recommendations,”​ DSM Nutritional Products senior marketing manager Wouter Claerhout, an attendee in Bruges, told NutraIngredients.com.

D briefing

At the Bruges meeting, Dr Lisette Tiddens-Engwirda, secretary general of the CPME said she welcomed the amount of scientific activity going on around Vitamin D, but gave no indication of how the group would vote on the recommendation.

According to Dr Anthony Norman from the University of California, there have been about 2000 vitamin D papers published on PubMed so far this year, much of it demonstrating the ability of the nutrient to benefit bone health and heart health.

There were some surprising revelations to come out of Bruges, such as the fact that some southern European countries have greater population-wide vitamin D deficiencies than their sun-deprived northern cousins.

Vitamin D recommendations vary widely around the world, but 400IU per day is the most common recommended level for normal adults and is utilised in places like Canada, the US and some European countries. Lower RDA’s of 200IU are also common and different levels are common for particular sub-population groups such as women and children.

Other issues raised at the conference included the fact the right forms of vitamin D were not always available. For instanced in Ireland, stand-alone vitamin D is not available – it can only be attained in the form of a multivitamin.

Patrice McKenney, the chief executive officer of the International Osteoporosis Foundation, noted there remained skepticism among some sections of the population about the quality of food supplements, including vitamin D.

Of the outcome of the Bruges gathering, Claerhout said, “this unprecedented combination of having doctors, scientists and patient groups present in one forum and speaking with one voice is hopefully going to cause a break through in the awareness and ‘behaviour’ around Vitamin D.”

Benefits

The major function of vitamin D in the human body is the maintenance of blood serum concentrations of calcium and phosphorus by enhancing the absorption of these minerals in the small intestine. As such, it is linked to maintaining bone health. In addition, the vitamin is thought to help maintain the immune system and reduce inflammation.

However, although the vitamin is essential in humans, experts have noted that about one billion people are estimated to be vitamin D deficient, a problem not aided by the fact very few foods are fortified with the vitamin.

Vitamin D deficiency may precipitate or exacerbate osteopenia, osteoporosis, muscle weakness, fractures, common cancers, autoimmune diseases, infectious diseases and cardiovascular diseases. There is also some evidence that the vitamin may reduce the incidence of several types of cancer and type 1 diabetes.

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