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WHILE both calcium and Vitamin D are essential to building strong bones and teeth, the Institute of Medicine (IOM)

This supplement overuse is considered a problem because health risks may be associated with getting too little or too much of these nutrients, adds the health letter.

For instance, getting too much calcium from dietary supplements has been associated with an increased risk of developing kidney stones and a recent study suggested that older women who take calcium supplements had an increased risk of heart attacks.

However, the study had a number of limitations, including the fact that supplements were taken without Vitamin D which helps the body absorb calcium.        
         
Nevertheless, it may not be necessary to take calcium supplements, if you are already getting plenty from your diet.

Natural sources of calcium include milk, cheese and yogurt, and dark leafy greens, such as broccoli.

Orange juice and cereals are now fortified with calcium as well.

On the other hand, with Vitamin D, supplements often may be the key to meeting daily recommendations because it can be difficult to get enough from the foods that contain this vitamin — including oily types of fish (salmon, mackerel, tuna and sardines) and fortified milk and cereals.

Sunshine, another natural source of Vitamin D, also may fall short of providing the recommended daily amounts — especially if you spend most of your time indoors, have dark skin or live in a northern climate.

Also, wearing sunscreen (recommended to reduce skin cancer risk) cuts down on the amount of Vitamin D your body can produce as well.

Still, taking excessive amounts of Vitamin D can cause kidney stones and possibly damage your heart and kidneys, says the health letter.

Recent studies also have suggested that too much Vitamin D, taken over a long period, could increase the risk of death or chronic disease.

The IOM has not changed the daily recommendations on calcium and still advises women (and men) between ages 19 and 50 to get 1,000 milligrams (mg) a day and women age 51 and older (and men 71 and older) to get 1,200 mg a day.

The safe upper limit for calcium — 2,000 mg a day — also has remained the same.

On the other hand, for Vitamin D — the IOM raised the Recommended Daily Allowance (RDA) from 400 to 600 international units (IU) for adults up to age 70 and from 600 to 800 IU for adults age 71 and older, and boosted the safe upper limit from 2,000 to 4,000 IU a day.

Some experts insist that the RDA for this vitamin still is too low.

Thus, in recent years, most adults have been advised to get at least 800 to 1,000 IU of Vitamin D a day to ward off a deficiency, as well as gain a range of health benefits that increasingly have been associated with higher levels of Vitamin D.

Since there is not enough scientific evidence to confirm if Vitamin D can help prevent chronic illnesses such as cancer or cardiovascular disease, or how much Vitamin D may be needed to provide any benefits beyond the promotion of bone growth and maintenance, the new recommendations for Vitamin D focus on what is needed for good bone health.

Meanwhile, researchers are currently recruiting 20,000 women and men for the first large-scale, randomized trial, known as the Vitamin D and Omega-3 Trial (VITAL) designed to investigate whether taking Vitamin D or fish oil reduces the risk of developing cancer, heart disease and stroke in adults without a prior history of these illnesses, as well as evaluating the role these supplements may play in preventing diabetes, depression, cognitive decline and autoimmune disease.

For most individuals, the best strategy is to keep supplement use in check and to avoid going beyond the upper limits that are considered safe for calcium and Vitamin D, concludes the health letter.

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