How Much is Too Much? Many Americans Consume Too Much Vitamin D
Healthy Teeth & Strong Bones
Somewhere along the line, you probably got the following advice: drink milk for healthy teeth and bones. And it turns out that a couple components in milk—calcium and vitamin D—indeed do help in this way. There’s little doubt that calcium, in particular, is helpful, but absorption of this into the body requires vitamin D. Hence, insufficient levels of this vitamin have been associated with joint pain,  and there’s some evidence that it may help patients with osteoarthritis. 
It’s no wonder, then, that an increasing number of Americans boost their vitamin D intake by taking dietary supplements. More of a good thing can only be better, right? Unfortunately, according to a recent study, too much of this substance in a diet may actually be harmful. 
What’s the Deal with Vitamin D?
Before getting into the problem of too much vitamin D, let’s take a closer look at how proper levels are beneficial. Currently, the FDA recommends that adults ingest 600 IU (international units) a day, with the number growing to 800 for those above age 70.  To give a sense of what this measurement means, there are 100 IU in an 8 oz. glass of milk. It’s not found at significant levels in too many other foods, though fish is an exception, and, interestingly, humans can get it directly from the sun.
But what about this vitamin makes it so helpful? It acts as a kind of gate-keeper for the bones, playing a distinct role in calcium absorption, which helps with bone density and health. Furthermore, vitamin D helps ensure the blood has the right amounts of calcium and phosphorous.  Healthier bones and joints means lower incidence of acute problems and a lower chance of developing osteoarthritis. 
Since not many foods are particularly vitamin D rich, it’s easy to see why so many rely on supplements to boost their levels, and, unfortunately, this is exactly where problems lie.
In a study published in the Journal of the American Medical Assocaition (JAMA), Dr. Mary R. Rooney of the University of Minnesota and a team of researchers noted that there’s been a drastic rise in the consumption of vitamin D supplements over the last 20 or so years.  Where, in 1999, only 0.3% of adults were regularly ingesting 1,000 IU or more, by 2014 it was found that nearly one in five did so. The researchers gathered these figures from a wide sample of data from 39,243 adults, relying largely on self-reported data.
This is a drastic increase, but it’s not the whole story. The real problem is that this rise in supplement use has also lead to approximately 3.2% of people ingesting more than 4,000 IU of vitamin D, which represents the upper healthy limit, especially among older adults, women, and white people.
What’s the danger of hitting these types of levels? Here’s a quick breakdown:
Elevated Cancer Risks:
Excessive vitamin D, especially when paired with calcium supplements, have been associated with higher risk of prostrate and pancreatic cancers. Furthermore, since the kidneys are intimately involved in regulating what is filtered in and out of the blood stream, too much of this vitamin can also lead to cancer there.
Given that vitamin D aids in the absorption of calcium into the body, elevated levels of intake are also associated with abnormally high levels of the latter in the blood stream, something called “hypercalcemia.”  This actually weakens the bones and can damage the kidneys.
This condition is known to be what makes kidney cancer deadly, and, like, hypercalcemia, its hallmark is unexpectedly high levels of calcium in certain parts of the blood stream. This can affect everything from brain and heart function, to the health of the joints. Kidney stones, for instance, are a form of this disorder.
It’s important to note, though, that things like milk consumption or getting sunlight will typically not lead to these problems. This largely is an issue that happens to consumers of vitamin supplements.
Still, there’s no doubt that vitamin D intake is important and essential. If you suffer from some forms of arthritis, for instance, your doctor may recommend you boost these levels. The important thing is to figure out the right way to do so.
Your best bet, then, is to consult with your caregiver before starting to take any supplement. They’ll be able to gauge risk and advise you on how to ensure your diet best supports your bones and joints. This is why, if you’re suffering from joint pain or related problems, you need to make sure you have the right team on your side. Working together, better outcomes are possible.
If you’re suffering with knee pain, shoulder problems, elbow issues or any other orthopedic ailment, the team at Onward Orthopedics is ready to help. Their approach combines the latest advances and methods with a dedication and commitment to patient comfort and positive outcomes. Learn more by calling a Patient Care Manager there at (800) 577-1693 today!
- ” Vitamin D For Good Bone Health-Orthoinfo – AAOS “. 2017. Aaos.Org. Accessed July 6 2017. http://orthoinfo.aaos.org/topic.cfm?topic=a00567.
- “Vitamin D May Slow Osteoarthritis Progression – Osteoarthritis”. 2015. Osteoarthritis. Accessed July 6 2017. http://blog.arthritis.org/osteoarthritis/osteoarthritis-vitamin-d/.
- “Many US Adults Taking Too Much Vitamin D”. 2017. Com. https://www.mdlinx.com/orthopedics/top-medical-news/article/2017/06/21/7220452.
- Rooney, Mary R., Lisa Harnack, Erin D. Michos, Rachel P. Ogilvie, Christopher T. Sempos, and Pamela L. Lutsey. 2017. “Trends In Use Of High-Dose Vitamin D Supplements Exceeding 1000 Or 4000 International Units Daily, 1999-2014”. JAMA317 (23): 2448. American Medical Association (AMA). doi:10.1001/jama.2017.4392.
- “Hypercalcemia – Mayo Clinic”. 2017. Mayo Clinic. Accessed July 6 2017. http://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/hypercalcemia/basics/definition/con-20031513.