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Health scare of the week: Too much vitamin D

According to a new study, most people do not need to take extra calcium and vitamin D supplements. In fact, excess calcium can be harmful to older women.

Doctors have been urging Americans in recent years to boost their intake of calcium and vitamin D. But a new report from the Institute of Medicine suggests that most people get enough of these key nutrients without supplements—and can suffer consequences from taking in too much.

A panel of researchers analyzed 1,000 studies of calcium and vitamin D intake among people in various age groups. They concluded that food furnishes most people, except for adolescent girls, with the roughly 1,000 milligrams of calcium they need daily. As for vitamin D, sunlight and food provide most adults with their daily requirement of 600 international units, whereas sales are soaring for vitamin D supplements containing as much as 5,000 IUs. “For most people, taking extra calcium and vitamin D supplements is not indicated,” panel member and osteoporosis expert Clifford Rosen tells The New York Times.

Excess calcium can damage internal organs and increase the risk of both heart disease and kidney stones in older women, the researchers noted. While sufficient levels of both are vital for bone health, the study found the evidence inconclusive for claims that vitamin D supplements could also help stave off cancer and autoimmune diseases.

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