A Health Ministry committee of experts has decided to enrich 3 percent milk with vitamin D. The committee's decision followed studies that showed that many Israelis lack the vitamin due to less exposure to the sun, which is the main source for vitamin D.
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In recent years many studies have pointed to the benefits of vitamin D in prevention of heart disease and cancer - even though large quantities might actually increase the risks of these illnesses.
The vitamin also helps prevent psychiatric disorders and illnesses related to the immune system. Furthermore, the vitamin's biological function in the absorption of calcium and phosphorus contributes to the well-being of bones, especially among adults. Recent studies have also shown a lack of vitamin D among residents of the Western world, including Israel, due to warnings to refrain from overexposure to the sun.
Recent studies, such as one carried out at the Rambam Medical Center in Haifa among men working at high-tech companies, showed that only 15 percent enjoy a proper level of the vitamin, while 40 percent suffer from a severe shortage of vitamin D.
Another study focusing on adolescent athletes and dancers carried out by the Safra children's hospital at the Sheba Medical Center showed that 74 percent did not have sufficient levels of the vitamin, while 6.5 percent suffer from a severe lack of vitamin D.
These studies led to the establishment of the Health Ministry committee, which decided to adopt the recommended levels of vitamin D as determined by the U.S. Institute of Medicine - 600 IU for those aged 1-70, and 800 IU for those over 70. These levels are higher than the recommended levels in Europe. Still, the committee decided to stick with the upper limit of recommended vitamin D - 2,000 IU, while the U.S. recommendation allows an upper limit twice that high.