Taking excessive amounts of vitamin D has serious health dangers
A man in the UK was hospitalized after taking almost 400 times the daily recommended amount of vitamin D, highlighting once again the serious danger of taking unsafe doses of over-the-counter vitamins and supplements.
"Vitamin D toxicity, also called hypervitaminosis D, is a rare but potentially serious condition that occurs when you have excessive amounts of vitamin D in your body," says Katherine Zeratsky, RD, LD. "Vitamin D toxicity is usually caused by large doses of vitamin D supplements — not by diet or sun exposure. That's because your body regulates the amount of vitamin D produced by sun exposure, and even fortified foods don't contain large amounts of vitamin D."
So what happens when too many vitamin D supplements are taken? "The main consequence of vitamin D toxicity is a buildup of calcium in your blood (hypercalcemia), which can cause nausea and vomiting, weakness, and frequent urination," Zeratsky says.
"Vitamin D toxicity might progress to bone pain and kidney problems, such as the formation of calcium stones. Treatment includes stopping vitamin D intake and restricting dietary calcium. Your doctor might also prescribe intravenous fluids and medications, such as corticosteroids or bisphosphonates."
Vitamin D—in the correct amount—is crucial for good health. "We have known for a long time that vitamin D is important for bone health," says Marci A. Goolsby, MD.
"One of the jobs of vitamin D is to help your gut absorb the calcium and phosphorus from your diet. These minerals in turn help build and maintain the strength of your bones. Low levels of vitamin D have been linked to stress fractures and other problems with the bones,” Goolsby said.
“But vitamin D has many other functions as well. I describe it to my patients as a delicate symphony of everything that goes on in your body. If one of the instruments — in this case, your vitamin D — is off, it can throw off the whole symphony."
Here is the official recommended daily amount of vitamin D, according to the National Institutes of Health.
Life Stage Recommended Amount
Birth to 12 months 10 mcg (400 IU)
Children 1–13 years 15 mcg (600 IU)
Teens 14–18 years 15 mcg (600 IU)
Adults 19–70 years 15 mcg (600 IU)
Adults 71 years and older 20 mcg (800 IU)
Pregnant and breastfeeding teens and women 15 mcg (600 IU)
Vitamin D is not the only vitamin that can cause serious health issues if incorrectly dosed.