CRN cites HHS and FDA recommendations in defending virtue of vitamin D, calcium


WASHINGTON — The Council for Responsible Nutrition on Thursday issued a response to a Preventive Services Task Force draft recommendation around the ineffectiveness of vitamin D and calcium to prevent cancer or fractures. The draft guidance also suggested vitamin D and calcium could equate to a greater risk of kidney stones in older women.

“This week’s draft recommendations by the USPSTF do a great disservice to Americans, especially postmenopausal women and the elderly, for whom the benefits of calcium and vitamin D have been well established," stated Taylor Wallace, senior director, scientific and regulatory affairs at CRN. "The Task Force calls into question the Department of Health and Human Services and Department of Agriculture’s 2010 Dietary Guidelines and the established recommendations by the Institute of Medicine that support calcium and vitamin D for reducing the risk of fracture, bone loss and falls," he said. "Consumers and their doctors should scrutinize sweeping draft recommendations like the ones reported this week and educate themselves on how they were generated. The entire body of scientific evidence should be considered."

In fact, the Institute of Medicine increased the recommended dietary intake for adults to 600-800 IU of vitamin D and 1000-1300 mg of calcium daily in 2010 and the 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans highlight four nutrients of public health concern in which Americans should strive to increase their intake: potassium, dietary fiber, vitamin D and calcium.

In addition, the guidelines state supplement containing combinations of certain nutrients, such as calcium and vitamin D, may be useful in postmenopausal women who have low levels of these nutrients in their diets to reduce the risk of osteoporosis, CRN noted.

And the Food and Drug Administration has an approved health claim for calcium, vitamin D and osteoporosis.

"Outside of these three government cornerstones of science-based nutrition information, the Task Force ignores a great deal of scientific evidence that demonstrates the benefits of calcium and vitamin D," Wallace said. According to CRN, in its initial December 2011 meta-analysis, the Task Force reviewed 19 randomized controlled trials and 28 observational studies and concluded that vitamin D was effective in reducing the risk of cancer and in reducing the risk of fractures among older adults. The recently released draft recommendations, however, eliminate all observational data and only take into account 16 of the RCTs, the largest and by far most influential of these being the Women’s Health Initiative.

"The WHI in particular has been criticized for its numerous weaknesses, but perhaps, most importantly, many of the women in the control group (i.e., the study subjects who were not supposed to be receiving calcium) were actually supplementing with calcium or receiving high doses of calcium from their diets outside the study protocol," Wallace noted. "The researchers made a conscious decision not to advise those women in the control group to avoid calcium from the diet or supplementation because such advice would be unethical."

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