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12 January 2012

A note of caution when taking calcium supplements with vitamin D

A case report published in Archives of Neurology shows the potential risk associated with taking calcium supplements with vitamin D

Neurologists from California, publishing in Archives of Neurology, have described the case of a 58 year old woman with MS taking a high dose (2020mg) of calcium daily in addition to a relatively standard dose of vitamin D (5,550IU daily).

This woman developed severe hypercalcaemia (high calcium levels in the blood) with significant side effects.

The authors hypothesised that the high dose of calcium supplements may have been the problem, and we have pointed out repeatedly that there is no need for calcium supplements for people with adequate levels of vitamin D. Interestingly the authors note in their Introduction that: “It has become mainstream practice for neurologists to aggressively prescribe cholecalciferol supplements in patients with MS” and “At many institutions (including ours), the goal of supplementation is to achieve serum levels of approximately 40 to 60 ng/mL” (100-150nmol/L).

It has taken some years for mainstream medicine to accept this as standard practice, but we appear to now be in the vitamin D era for people with Multiple Sclerosis, after much research and lobbying.

This case report should not alarm people as it appears to be the first case of toxicity ever reported with so low a dose of vitamin D supplementation.

There is good evidence to show that up to 10,000IU a day is safe. However, it is worth reiterating that calcium supplements are unnecessary when taking vitamin D supplements of this order.