Vitamins sit on the shelf of a CVS pharmacy.
Vitamins sit on the shelf of a CVS pharmacy. - 
Listen To The Story


Kai Ryssdal: Here's one for those of you popping a big daily dose of Vitamin D as often recommended by your physician: the Institute of Medicine issued a report today on how much of the sunshine vitamin we ought to be getting.

Bottom line? Three times their old recommendation but not nearly as much as what many advocates and scientists have been pushing. Or as Marketplace's Sarah Gardner reports, not what vitamin sellers wanted to hear.

Sarah Gardner: In the past few years, there's been a flurry of reports suggesting widespread Vitamin D deficiency. But today a panel of government scientists disputed that notion. Cornell University's Patsy Brannon was one of them.

Patsy Brannon: We find that most Americans and Canadians are actually meeting their Vitamin D.

That's through a combination of sun, food and multivitamins, most likely, as opposed to the mega doses that have become almost a fad in recent years. From 2008 to 2009 alone, sales of Vitamin D supplements jumped 82 percent. That's big business. Will today's announcement burst that bubble? Mark Brush is editor-in-chief at Nutrition Business Journal.

Mark Brush: That's tough to say. There's a lot of complicated forces at play with this stuff. Obviously the federal government has a very powerful voice.

But so do doctors, says Judy Blatman. She's with the main trade association for the dietary supplement industry. She says right now nearly one in five U.S. adults take Vitamin D and many do so on the advice of their physicians. Blatman does urge consumers to do some research of their own, starting with a careful reading of this latest news.

Judy Blatman: We really would urge that consumers certainly read the media reports but don't just read the headlines, read the entire thing.

Today's report did warn about the risks of taking very high doses of Vitamin D, like kidney damage. It also warned about taking too much of another common supplement for strengthening bones -- calcium.

I'm Sarah Gardner for Marketplace.

“I think the best compliment I can give is not to say how much your programs have taught me (a ton), but how much Marketplace has motivated me to go out and teach myself.” – Michael in Arlington, VA

As a nonprofit news organization, what matters to us is the same thing that matters to you: being a source for trustworthy, independent news that makes people smarter about business and the economy. So if Marketplace has helped you understand the economy better, make more informed financial decisions or just encouraged you to think differently, we’re asking you to give a little something back.

Become a Marketplace Investor today – in whatever amount is right for you – and keep public service journalism strong. We’re grateful for your support.

Follow Sarah Gardner at @RadioGardner