Coroner issues chilling warning about vitamin D supplements after British man dies from 'overdose'

Vitamin D supplements in hand

Coroner is calling on manufacturers to make the risks posed by excessive vitamin D intake clear on packaging

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Adam Chapman

By Adam Chapman

Published: 01/03/2024

- 09:48

Updated: 01/03/2024

- 10:03

David Mitchener, 89, had been taking vitamin D supplements for at least nine months prior to his death

A UK coroner is demanding supplement manufacturers print warnings on their packaging after an 89-year-old retiree died from "overdosing" on vitamin D.

David Mitchener from Oxted, Surrey, had been taking vitamin D for at least nine months prior to his death.

He reportedly had lethal levels of the sunshine vitamin in his blood when he was admitted to the East Surrey Hospital last year in May and was suffering from hypercalcaemia – a build-up of calcium in the body associated with taking too much vitamin D.

The retired businessman was confirmed dead 10 days later.

His primary cause of death was stated in the report as heart failure and kidney failure, excess calcium levels, and vitamin D toxicity, also known as hypervitaminosis D.

Man texting in the cold

Most people will not make enough vitamin D from sunlight during the winter months

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The report did not specify how much vitamin D the 89-year-old was taking but exceeding 100 micrograms (4,000 IU) of vitamin D a day is considered harmful.

Coroner Jonathan Stevens said that there were no warnings on or in the packaging detailing the specific risks or side effects of taking vitamin D supplements.

"Vitamin supplements can have potentially very serious risks and side effects when taken in excess," he said in the report.

The coroner is now calling on supplement manufacturers and regulatory bodies to do more to let people know how much they should take.

"In my opinion, there is a risk that future deaths will occur unless action is taken," he said, adding that he feels manufacturers "have the power to take action".

He has also written to the Food Standards Agency and the Department of Health and Social Care urging them to ask supplement manufacturers to print warnings on packaging.

Should I take vitamin D supplements and how much is too much?

From about late March/early April to the end of September, most people should be able to make all the vitamin D they need from sunlight.

As the NHS explains, the body creates vitamin D from direct sunlight on the skin when outdoors.

However, some people will not make enough vitamin D from sunlight because they have very little or no sunshine exposure, especially during autumn and winter.

This can lead to bone deformities such as rickets in children, and bone pain caused by a condition called osteomalacia in adults.So those prone to a deficiency are recommended to take supplements.

The Department of Health and Social Care recommends that adults and children over four take a daily supplement containing 10 micrograms of vitamin D throughout the year if they:

  • Are not often outdoors – for example, if they're frail or housebound
  • Are in an institution like a care home
  • Usually wear clothes that cover up most of their skin when outdoors

Do not take more than 100 micrograms (4,000 IU) of vitamin D a day as it could be harmful, warns the NHS.

According to the health body, this applies to adults, including pregnant and breastfeeding women and the elderly, and children aged 11 to 17 years.

Government advice is that everyone should consider taking a daily vitamin D supplement during the autumn and winter.

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