From John Cannell, MD
From 1955 to 1990, all infants in East Germany received 600,000 IU of Vitamin D every three months for a total of 3,600,000 IU at age 18 months.
With the 400 IU/day recommendation of the American Pediatric Association in mind, I ran across this amazing paper while surfing Medline for Vitamin D. According to this paper, all infants in the German Democratic Republic (East Germany) received dangerously high doses of Vitamin D every three months in their doctors office. The policy was in place for 35 years. The first 600,000 IU dose was given at three months and then every three months until the child was 18 months of age. This works out to an average of 6,000 IU per day (actually, for several technical reasons it is not equivalent) for 18 months. The authors collected blood before the dose and then 2 weeks after the quarterly dose to obtain 25(OH)D, 1,25(OH)D, and calcium levels on a total of 43 infants.
Before the first dose, at 3 months of age, the average infant was extremely deficient (median 25(OH)D of 7 ng/ml). Two weeks after the first dose the average 25(OH)D level was 120 ng/ml, the second dose 170 ng/ml, the third dose, 180 ng/ml, the fourth dose, 144 ng/ml, the fifth dose, 110 ng/ml and after the sixth and final dose, 3.6 million total units, at age 18 months, the children had mean levels of 100 ng/ml. That is, by the 15 and 18 month doses, the children were beginning to effectively handle these massive doses.
The highest level recorded in any of the 43 infants was 408 ng/ml at age 9 months, two weeks after the third 600,000 IU dose. Thirty-four percent of the infants had at least one episode of hypercalcemia but only 3 had an elevated serum 1,25(OH)D. The authors reported that all the infants appeared healthy, even the infant with a level of 408 ng/ml, that is, no clinical toxicity was noted in any of these infants.
They also reported that repeated inquires in GDR have failed to identify clinical Vitamin D toxicity as a result of the prophylactic program. The pediatricians and health officials in the GDR just did not look hard enough for toxicity as such doses will certainly cause clinical toxicity, right? Or maybe such doses only cause asymptomatic hypercalcemia and not clinical toxicity. It would be interesting to look at the infant mortality in East Germany during those years, compared to similar Eastern European countries, as well as current cohorts of German adults who underwent such treatment as an infant.