Dr. John Cannell is head of the Vitamin D Council, and he is undoubtedly one of the most knowledgeable physicians in the world on Vitamin D. In his most recent blog, he discussed a paper that concerned three infants and toddlers who had rickets who were given Vitamin D, and they wound up with slightly elevated blood calcium, above the normal range.

Before discussing the paper, Dr. Cannell pointed out that in East Germany, before the fall of Communism, every child in the country was given a pharmacological dose of Vitamin D3: 600,000 IUs. It was mandated for every child in the country, every 3 months for the first 18 months of life. It came to 3.6 million IUs of Vitamin D3 in the first year and a half of life.

That is way too much Vitamin D, but amazingly, only 1/3 developed high blood calcium, and none got clinically toxic. They surely would have if it had been Vitamin D2, so thank God they knew better than to do that. The highest calcium levels that resulted from it was 13 mg/dl, which is high but not life-threatening. Note that in East Germany at the time, normal blood calcium was considered to be between 9.4 and 11.2, the same as in Norway. In the US, normal is considered 9 to 10.5.

But, Dr. Cannell argues that the higher range is the correct one, and that our “normal” in the US is based on a population of Vitamin D-deficient people. Here is how he put it:

“How do we get these calcium ranges? We take several thousand vitamin D deficient children, measure their calcium and use a Gaussian distribution to calculate “normal.” How do I know the kids are vitamin D deficient? Because virtually all the kids in the USA are vitamin D deficient, thanks to video games, the sunscare, and sunblock. For the first time in human history, we are raising a generation of indoor children. Because calcium and vitamin D are connected, such children will have slightly lower calcium levels than would several thousand truly “normal” kids. Therefore, we use the abnormal to calculate the normal.”

Dr. Cannell then pointed out that the three children with rickets who had “hypercalcemia” were all below 11.2, which is to say that none of them really had high blood calcium. And that was in response to a dose of 150,000 IUs- which was a quarter of the dose routinely given to kids in East Germany.

And now Dr. Cannell is afraid that doctors here will refrain from giving children appropriate Vitamin D because of the misconception that these three children were harmed. It’s a pity.