LONDON — People can end up in hospital if they overdose on Vitamin D supplements, a new study warns.
Medics say the vitamin, which people also pick up from sunlight and certain foods, is harmful to those who consume too much of it. They add hypervitaminosis D, a condition caused by too much vitamin D, is on the rise and can lead to a wide range of serious health issues.
Women, children, and people with weakened immune systems are most likely to develop this condition. Now, researchers are sounding the alarm after a middle-aged man had to go to the hospital for the condition after first visiting his family doctor.
The patient complained of recent vomiting, nausea, chest pain, leg cramps, ringing in his ears, a dry mouth, thirst, diarrhea, and weight loss. His symptoms had been going on for three months and began one month after he started seeing a nutritional therapist who reportedly gave him large amounts of vitamin supplements.
The patient took 80 times the recommended dose
The man had health issues including tuberculosis, an inner ear tumor which left him deaf in one ear, a buildup of fluid in the brain, bacterial meningitis, and chronic sinusitis. He had been taking more than 20 over-the-counter supplements every day containing more than 80 times the recommended amount of the vitamin D.
Specifically, the patients was taking a staggering 50,000mg of vitamin D, but the recommended dose is just 600mg. The cocktail of pills also contained too much vitamin B9 and omega 3, mixed in with other vitamin, mineral, nutrient, and probiotic supplements.
He stopped taking the brew after his symptoms developed, but they still continued to affect the man. Blood tests revealed he had seven times the amount of vitamin D in his body than what is necessary to stay healthy. He also had very high levels of calcium and slightly raised levels of magnesium.
His kidneys were not working properly, but scans found he did not have cancer. The man stayed in the hospital for eight days and received fluids to flush the cocktail of drugs out of his system. He was also given drugs which are normally used to strengthen bones and lower levels of calcium in his blood.
Two months after being discharged, his calcium level returned to normal — but the amount of vitamin D in his system was still too high. Healthy levels of vitamin D can come from wild mushrooms, oily fish, and sunlight.
“Globally, there is a growing trend of hypervitaminosis D, a clinical condition characterized by elevated serum vitamin D3 levels,” the researchers write in a media release.
It can take weeks to recover from a vitamin D overdose
Study authors note that the symptoms of hypervitaminosis D can last for several weeks. These symptoms can also vary but are mostly caused by too much calcium in the blood. The long list of symptoms includes drowsiness, confusion, apathy, psychosis, depression, stupor, coma, anorexia, chest pain, vomiting, constipation, stomach ulcers, pancreatitis, high blood pressure, abnormal heart rhythm, and kidney abnormalities. Inflammatory eye disease, joint stiffness, hearing loss, and deafness are also possible ailments.
The team says that, while the condition is fairly rare, it is important people remember it is possible to overdose on the vitamin.
“This case report further highlights the potential toxicity of supplements that are largely considered safe until taken in unsafe amounts or in unsafe combinations,” the researchers conclude.
The findings are published in the journal BMJ Case Reports.
South West News Service writer Gwyn Wright contributed to this report.