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A closer look: Vitamin D toxicity

Posted on: October 15, 2012   by  John Cannell, MD


In a 2011 paper, Dr. Takako Araki and colleagues of Beth Israel Medical Center in New York reported on two cases of vitamin D toxicity due to errors in the manufacturing of American made supplements. In both cases, the manufacturers made a 1,000-fold error, putting in 1,000 times too much vitamin D in the supplement. One company shut down and the other found the error in only one batch.

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16 Responses to A closer look: Vitamin D toxicity

  1. Ron Carmichael

    It is reasonable to presume that millions of people in the US are taking vitamin D3 over the counter. Knowing as I do that it is common for the layperson (and even the health professional) to presume that if a little is good then a lot is better, I cannot help but be amazed at the total absence of self-inflicted overdosing effects anywhere in the literature. But I don’t access the for-pay online med info sources – ARE there citations of self-inflicted overdoses from people taking say, 50,000iu every day of D3 for months and months, and what were the symptoms/injuries?

  2. sswelm

    So only after taking a mind boggling 111840000 IU he was actualy diagnosed with toxic levels of vitamin D. Seems you have to go to extraordinary means to become toxic from Vitamin D3 pills. meanwhile doctors warn people not to take much more than 100o IU or risk getting toxic .

  3. Mark Richards

    I’m surprised that the FDA has yet to wave this paper above their heads and call for (more) federal regulation over the supplement industry with special restrictions (of course) upon Vitamin D. Heading into the winter season in our hemisphere would be a particularly poignant moment in which to do so.

    As a political skeptic and very long time observer as to how things are done around here (the US), I know that timing is everything. Even a large bumbling federal agency like the pharmaceutical industry enabling FDA can surely overcome its tendency to fall all over itself for a headline, as there may well be commercial advantage in letting the “safety” of vitamin D OTC grow. A few more toxic events (or cases where it’s dubious but will pass in the press) and the regulation will follow, and then – quickly – the pharmaceutical answer. The same is done by the CDC with disease statistics in order that they promote vaccines. They even admit they flub with numbers to keep the influenza vaccine industry happy. Further evidence of this trend can be found when we note that the FAA was, for quite some time, so occupied with the promotion of the airline industry that it routinely overlooked safety violations. Similar conflicts of interests evidenced in Japan with The Ministry of Energy and Technology which regulates the Japanese nuclear industry. In both cases it took a lot of bodies to bring the lack of oversight to light of day.

    Surely pharmaceutical research is moving forward towards a prescriptive form of Vitamin D. I believe Dr. Cannell has made reference to this in the past. There is gold in them thar’ pills. Why leave it to something anyone can buy without having to present ID and a signature, and a wad of cash.

    Perhaps the reason that we have not seen more of these cases is simply because Vitamin D toxicity is difficult to achieve and because any company in their right mind creating supplements does so with safety (and liability) in mind.

  4. Above23

    I personally prescribe 30,000 IU’s per day for my patients to keep their levels in the 80-120 ng/ml blood level! Only rarely will at these oral levels will I find a patients blood level at these doses higher then my target range above! Surprisingly even at those ranges I have never found an elevated calcium! Have found not a single person to have a upper respiratory tract infection, significant weight loss and deep restorative sleep in the several thousand patients I have on these doses for past several years! So 800 IU’s a day is in my opinion a scam! The FDA appears in my humble opinion does not want health people!

    • Brant Cebulla

      @Above23, what kind of practice do you run?

  5. [email protected]

    To Above23:

    I supplement with 15,000 i.u./daily in summer and 30,000 i.u./daily fall thru late spring.

    My blood level is consistently around 85 ng/ml.

    The health benefits have been tremendous for me.

    May all your days be SUNNY!

    Rita C. Umile


  6. MaryT

    I take 50,000 IUs of vitamin D3 daily . I stopped taking so musch after I began experiencing joint pain which lingered after I reduced my doses. Soon afterward I read that reducing or stopping doses due to joint or muscle pain may not be necessary and may signal low magnesium. I wish I could find the link…I thought I saved it in my favorites. Well anyway, I began taking the higher doses of vitamin D and increased my magnesium intake. The pain is nearly gone with the additional magnesium. Also, you might wonder why I would take such a high dose in the first place. I began to look at issues such as my weight, dark skin tone and diabetes. I figured to keep it high for a short period of time. Then I began noticing that my spring time allergies began to dissipated greatly. I had wondered if the vitamin D3 might be the cause. I discovered that it did indeed help reduce the intensity and frequency of allergies.

  7. Lytbender

    hey Above23

    I have been taken 50,000 units of D3 with K2 daily for 8 months now and have never felt better. As you noted I sleep like a baby, lost weight, have not been sick except for a urticaria skin condition when I am stressed from air travel. I think the D3 is helping that too. I am a vegan and had not been getting enough D3, K2 and Vitamin A. My blood levels are at 150. I am amazed how this has helped me. My varicose veins are almost gone, my gums no longer bleed, my skin cancers are gone. I could go on and on. I first read Jeff Bowles book on high dose Vit D3 to start me on it. I think this is the missing link to our health.

  8. D-fiant

    Recently I read a report on D toxity on pubmed.


    My understanding of their hypothesis was that one of the first things to happen in the presence of a large amount of Vit D was for Vit K to be depleted.

    Although Vitamin A has a protective effect on Vit K by leaving Vit K more available, this in-turn reduces Vit D toxity. But if there is enough Vit D present then toxity will happen.

    If Vit K can be increased then higher amounts of Vit D can alsobe given.

    As stated on Vit D council website, there is no upper limit for Vit K, unless products like warfarin etc are used http://www.vitamindcouncil.org/about-vitamin-d/vitamin-d-cofactors/vitamin-k/

    From other places I have read; and in the link above, Vit K (s) directs Calcium to the bones, and will take calcium from organs and artries to the bones.

    It seems to me in the action of transfering calcium, Vit D is the braun and Vit K is the brains, when Vit K is not present Vit D will shift calcium to anywhere causing problems. When there is plenty of Vit K, calcium is placed into the bones where it belongs.

    Vit K and Vit D also work well in leukemia -ref http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/16142303

  9. [email protected]

    There is a graph of dozens of vitamin D toxicity studies.


    One point on the graph: 50,000 IU daily is toxic after 8 weeks

    Graph indicates that 10,000 IU can be taken daily forever.

    Note: Should balance the body with cofactors when taking more than 3,000 IU of vitamin D daily

  10. MaryT

    The graph that you are referring to is incorrect about the length of time we can take 50,000 IUs without toxicity, obviously. I think that the fear of toxicity is so high that the true need of the co-factors are being overlooked.

  11. [email protected]

    I’d like to add that I certainly do supplement with co-factors as well as supplementing with large doses of D3.

    I take 600 mg Magnesium daily…boron…K2…chromium…strontium…zinc…, etc.

    However, I do not supplement with calcium, as I believe it is easy to get adequate amounts of calcium from my diet, and D3 makes the calcium I do get from my diet much more accessible for my body to utilize.

    Keeping my D levels at around 85 ng/ml has been the BEST thing I ever did for myself.

    May all your days be SUNNY!!

    Rita C. Umile

  12. kenmerrimanmd

    In my recent experience I do find some patients that seem to have a pretty good vit D level without much in the way of supplementation they are kind of rare it would be those pts that might concer us for the possibility of over doing it over a period of time

    I think of Vit D as filling a bucket with a hose

    depends on how good is the hose and how leaky is the bucket

    if the bucket is less leaky and the hose is effecient at filling the bucket it may not require all that much to keep a reasonably good D level // if the contraverse is true bad hose and big time leaky bucket then it may require a large amt of D to keep a good level

    the only way to figure this out for an individual is to occasionally test the levels hopefully with a test that is accurate

    50,000 / day kind of concerns me but a few years ago many would have said that of 5000/day

    so it is testing that is the speedometer that helps us “motor” on safely IMHO

    ken merriman md gereral orthopedic surgeon

  13. [email protected]

    @ Dr. Merriman~~

    You are so correct (IMHO). Certainly, I am only an experiment of one; BUT, for me it takes a substantial amount of supplementation to keep my D level at approximately 85 ng/ml. I take around 15,000 i.u./daily in the summer, and around 30,000 i.u./daily fall thru late spring. πŸ™‚ Hope I haven’t SHOCKED anyone!!!

    Now, my 84.5 year old Mom–she only requires 10,000 i.u./day all year ’round to keep her level at approximately 85 ng/ml.

    We are all so uniquely different, it appears!

    My mantra is TEST…TEST…TEST!

    It is the only way to know your Vitamin D serum levels, isn’t it?

    To Sunny Days!

    Rita C. Umile

  14. kenmerrimanmd

    the Vit D test is like a speedometer you can drive a car without one BUT they are kind of helpful

    so occasionally checking the speedometer is a good idea


    ken merriman md

  15. DannyBex

    Has anyone ever experienced a development of bone spurs when taking such high doses of vitamin D?

    It seems like when I take “high” levels (which probably aren’t that high — 2,000-4,000ius in a drop w/vitamin K2), I often, within a few days, develop a ‘crunchy’ sound in my neck, and sometimes it feels like it wants to lock up. Also, my teeth start to feel loose, and my bite shifts around, like (perhaps) calcium, etc., is being withdrawn from my jaw. (?)

    I’m not getting much calcium from my diet, so could it be that calcium is being pulled from my bones to make up for the low calcium intake?

    I’d really appreciate ANY and ALL replies…I have to increase my vitamin d (my test result from 8/30/2012 was 28.6!), but worry about these calcification issues, especially in light of studies that suggest calcium supplementation is dangerous.

    Thanks in advance,


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