French health body warns parents over risk of overdosing infants with vitamin D, urges use of medicines rather than supplements

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The French Agency for Food, Environmental and Occupational Health & Safety (ANSES) has issued a warning to parents and health workers over the risk of overdosing infants with vitamin D, which it says can have “serious, life-threatening consequences on the health of young children”. 

The warning comes after three reported cases of infants becoming ill as a result of taking food supplements. 

In a statement, ANSES says: “Giving your child too much vitamin D can be just as harmful as not giving enough. Between 2020 and 2021, the Agency registered three reports of severe hypercalcaemia (excessive calcium in the blood) in infants. These cases occurred after young children were given food supplements fortified with vitamin D intended for adults.”

ANSES says that parents should “opt for a medicine containing vitamin D rather than a food supplement fortified with this vitamin”, adding that medicines are required to deliver precise doses of active ingredients and come with leaflets providing clear information on doses, precautions for use and risk of adverse effects. 

UK study found wide variation in vitamin D content 

In 2020, a UK study into the quality and use of unlicensed vitamin D preparations – based on products purchased in pharmacies, health stores and online – showed “wide variations between measured and declared vitamin D content which could lead to the risk of under- and over-dosing”.

The 11 food supplements showed vitamin D content ranging from 41.2 ± 10.6% to 165.3 ± 17.8% of the labelled claim, with eight of the preparations failing to comply with the food supplement specification (80-150% of labelled claim). Two licensed vitamin D products assessed separately showed mean (±SD) vitamin D content of 90.9 ± 0.7% and 90.5 ± 3.9% of the labelled claimed amount, meeting the British Pharmacopeia specification for licensed medicines (90-125%).

The study’s authors concluded: “Clinicians and pharmacists must therefore change practice to use licensed vitamin D preparations whenever possible. We call on regulatory bodies to safeguard public health and ensure that only medicinal-grade vitamin D preparations are used to treat vitamin D deficiency.”

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