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D Toxicity

A number of recent studies suggest that more than 50 percent of Americans are vitamin D deficient—the result of more and more sunblock use as well as people working indoors and not getting the sunshine they need. That deficiency has prompted many to begin taking vitamin D supplements, which is a good thing.

Because vitamin D is fat-soluble, however, many worry if it can build up in the body and be toxic. The answer is yes, but it takes an excessive amount. In a recent article published at his Web site (, nutritionist and health expert Jonny Bowden, Ph.D., CNS, explained what happened to nutrition and health guru Gary Null.

“Null reportedly became very, very sick from taking too much vitamin D. This case was even weirder because the source of vitamin D was his own product, Ultimate Power Meal.

“Ultimate Power Meal was labeled as containing 2,000 international units of vitamin D, an amount I personally recommend as the minimum adults should supplement with (but that’s just my opinion). Unfortunately, his supplier and formulators made a bit of a mistake and left off a few zeros: Ultimate Power Meal actually contained 2,000,000—that’s 2 million—I.U. per serving, not 2,000.

“That means in a month he consumed 60 million I.U. (100 times the amount someone popping a 2,000-I.U. pill on a daily basis would consume). Null reportedly fully recovered within three months of stopping the defective supplement.”

As Bowden went on to explain, vitamin D can be toxic—just like water and oxygen and omega-3s. The number of cases in which that happens, though, are about as common as “an appearance by Bill Clinton at a fundraiser for Sarah Palin.”

Studies performed in the ’30s at the University of Illinois School of Medicine treated patients with 200,000 I.U. a day for arthritis, with less than 10 percent of those subjects showing any ill effects. Those who did become sick got a quick reversal of symptoms by reducing the D dosage and increasing fluid intake.

Vitamin D toxicity shouldn’t be a concern if you’re taking moderate doses in supplement form—even if you’re also getting sunshine regularly. Remember, Null took 2,000,000 I.U. every day for more than three months and survived.

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