In recent years, news articles and health magazines across the country have been highlighting the distinct lack of vitamin D in the average American’s diet. Vitamin D is a nutrient that is used in the body to help the absorption of calcium and phosphorus, two nutrients which are important for developing healthy and strong bones. Failing to consume enough of these important building blocks can lead to weakness, fatigue, and osteoporosis. Concern over vitamin D adequacy has caused the FDA to note the vitamin as a nutrient of public health significance, and to suggest that it be added as a mandatory item to the revised Nutrition Facts label. Currently, vitamin D is a voluntary nutrient, meaning that it appears on the label if it is added to the product, or if a claim is made about it on the product package.
Vitamin D is a fat-soluble vitamin that is found naturally in the flesh of fatty fish and some fish liver oils. Fortified milk products and breakfast cereals are also sources that are more commonly consumed. While it is possible for the body to produce vitamin D by merely being exposed to sunlight, the amount of sun exposure varies greatly from person to person and people are advised against being in the sun to reduce the risk of skin cancer. Therefore, to determine the requisite amount of vitamin D for all age groups, the Institute of Medicine considered a minimum of sunlight exposure. Instead, they assumed that the requirement will be obtained through diet.
Currently, when vitamin D is listed on the label it is expressed as a percentage of the Daily Value, which is 400 IU for adults and children four or more years of age (based on a 2000 calorie diet). In the proposed regulations, the labeling standard would be changed to 20 mcg (which is equivalent to 800 IU). The unit change from IU to mcg, and the increase in the recommended amount is proposed to be consistent with new research in the DRI reports.
As the proposed labeling regulations are sorted out, it is important to align with a reputable nutritional analysis software company that understands and can implement the changes as soon as they are finalized.