Prevention of Cavities with a Single “Massive” Dose of Vitamin D

In the 1920’s, 30’s and 40’s there was a lot of interest in the application of nutrition and vitamin supplementation, particularly vitamin D,  in the treatment of tooth decay.  This research was pioneered by May Mellanby, with significant contributions by Drs. Drain and Boyd.

In the late 1930’s, Drs. Brodsky, Schick and Vollmer studied the effect of a single “massive” dose of vitamin D on the occurrence of cavities in about 100 children residing in the Sea View Hospital, New York.  The children were between the ages of 2 and 16, and were being treated for acute tuberculosis.  The rationale was that single doses of vitamin D of 600,000IU had been used successfully to treat rickets and tetany (low blood calcium) in children.  The study was designed to test whether it would also be successful when applied to prevention of tooth decay.

All the children consumed the routine hospital diet consisting of 1 quart of milk, 5 to 10 ounces of meat or fish, 2 ounces of butter, 3 ounces of fresh fruit juice plus 1 orange or apple, 3 ounces of cooked vegetable, 3 ounces of raw vegetable and 1 egg per day.  In addition to this basic diet each child received such food as puddings or rhubarb, bread with each meal, cereals, cocoa and stewed fruits.

Group A received no supplemental vitamin D. These children were the control group.  Group B received about 305,000 IU of vitamins D2 and D3 in concentrated fish oil taken over a few days.  Group C received a single massive dose of 600,000 IU of vitamin D2 as a supplement.  None of the children showed any toxic manifestation after the administration of the single massive dose of vitamin D.

Eleven months after receiving the massive vitamin D supplement, the children were re-examined.  The incidence of new cavities decreased in a dose-dependent fashion with increasing vitamin D. Group A developed an average of 1.18 cavities per child. Group B developed and average of  0.39 cavities per child, while Group C,  developed only 0.17 cavities per child.

Group A received no vitamin D. Group B received 305,000 IU. Group C received 600,000 IU.

Administration of a single “massive” dose of vitamin D alone reduced the  incidence of tooth decay by 85%.

The 600,000IU taken by Group C is equivalent to about 1,600 IU per day, which is within the range being recommended by prominent vitamin D researchers, and well below the current safe upper limit of 2,000IU per day.

This entry was posted in Dental Researchers, May Mellanby, nutrition, prevent cavities, tooth decay, Uncategorized, vitamin d. Bookmark the permalink.

12 Responses to Prevention of Cavities with a Single “Massive” Dose of Vitamin D

  1. Pingback: Vitamin D questions!

  2. Jane says:

    I have been wondering for a long time about Mellanby’s experiments. I can’t help thinking that it was a bad idea to use dogs. Dogs would never encounter grains or phytate in the wild. As for the observations with children, it’s pretty clear that refined carbohydrates are generally associated with dental problems, and unrefined ones protect. This isn’t always true. Here’s what Cleave says in The Saccharine Disease about periodontal disease:

    ‘It is perfectly true that refined carbohydrates are a prime cause, but it does not necessarily follow that unrefined carbohydrates can not be a cause. It all depends on the form these unrefined carbohydrates take. If they take the form of stale, coarse, wholemeal bread, and hard fruits and vegetables, such as the raw apple, the fresh salad, and the fibrous vegetable, no periodontal disease will follow their consumption. But if they take the form of boiled whole grains, such as soft porridges of maize or oats, and various vegetable mashes, with little other food eaten, then periodontal disease may still supervene. This happens in many natives in India and Africa, where the diet is of just this type, whereas Eskimoes and Australian Aborigines, who eat little carbohydrate but much tough meat, escape. It is clear from the above that, where periodontal disease is concerned, unrefined carbohydrates have every advantage over refined carbohydrates, but some of them should be eaten in the raw state.’

    So what we need to know is, was the oatmeal Mellanby gave to the children raw or cooked?

    • Jane, I am sure that the oatmeal given to the children was cooked. Raw oatmeal seems very un-British. I don’t recall that it was explicitly stated, but I have always assumed that it was in the form of oatmeal porridge. From memory, the standard diet included something like a cup and a half oatmeal per day, and some bread. Mellanby showed that even when eating cereals, caries could be reduced by some 80% by enriching the diet in vitamin D (while also consuming a quart of milk per day). However, decay virtually stopped after grains were eliminated. The children continued to consume a moderate amount of carbohydrate (something like 150g per day) in the form of potatoes, fruit and vegetables, milk and even some sugar (sucrose).

      As a dog lover it’s sad to think of those poor puppies being used and I agree that dogs were unlikely to consume grains and phytate in the wild. However, they do seem to provide value as animal models. May Mellanby (and her husband Edward who was studying rickets) used dogs to test several hypotheses and ultimately to develop the clinical trials using children. My reading is that the clinical outcomes are quite consistent with the insights gleaned from the animal experiments. Like dogs, we also have limited ability to digest phytate, and many would argue that prior to the last 10,000 years we also would have consumed few grains.

      The Mellanby’s made the point, which is often overlooked, is that phytate, or “the cereal effect”, is problematic when the diet is lacking in calcium, vitamin D and other minerals. If the diet is nutrient rich, then consumption of cereal grains do not seem to be a particular problem. Case in point the Gaelic fisherfolk described by Weston Price. Perfect teeth and health (and cheery good moral character) despite oatcakes being a staple of their diet. Apparently a favoured delicacy was cod’s head stuffed with livers…

      I have found it helpful to think beyond just refined or unrefined carbohydrates. Sugar (sucrose) and white rice are both refined. Yet the weight of the evidence is that sucrose is especially and uniquely cariogenic (cavity forming), whereas white rice appears much less so (if at all). John Yudkin, a contemporary of Peter Cleave, argued strongly that it was refined sugar out of all the refined carbohydrates that was the underlying cause of not only tooth decay, but the entire suite of “diseases of civilization”. Similarly, unrefined carbohydrates from fruit, vegetables and tubers are in a different category to unrefined carbohydrates from phytate-rich cereal grains.

      Inuit (Eskimoes) had perfect teeth on an almost carbohydrate-free diet, but so did Polynesians, despite carbohydrates making up to 75% of their diet, as long as those carbohydrates were in the form of poi or sweet potatoes. Rampant decay developed on a grain-based diet.


  3. Emm says:

    To the previous commented, I don’t buy the theory that course, hard to chew food causes cavities. From everything I’ve read, it’s more about nutritional deficits and out of balance body chemistry then it is external chewing of food or bacteria on the teeth eating sugars. Early remains of grain eating peoples found they had more bone spurs and missing teeth then peoples eating a hunter gatherer diet that did have starch but no/few grains.

  4. Emily says:

    I read the article about the polynesians, it stated that they began eating polished (white) rice, which from your blog and many other sources I know is low in grain anti- nutrients, so why would switching from root veg to white rice cause a rapid rise in cavities?

    • Emily

      Good question and one I wondered about when I first read the paper. Polished rice is lower in phytate than brown rice, but depending upon the type and degree of milling can still have a significant phytic acid content. Data from the book Food Phytates, which is summarized here on Wikipedia, indicates that the phytic acid content of polished rice can range from 0.14% to 0.6%, or about half that of brown rice.

      However, it is not just the amount of phytic acid consumed, but the amount in relation with mineral intake. As an example, the Gaelic fisher folk mentioned by Dr Jones (an in my previous reply above) had excellent teeth and health despite a staple of phytate-rich oatcakes. The full equation seems to be phytic acid content versus intake of calcium, zinc, iron and other minerals. If the diet is rich in minerals, then higher levels of dietary phytate can be tolerated.


  5. Mick says:

    This suprises me as I’ve heard vitamin C being the main one for any type of teeth related issues, I have to say the more I learn about vitamin D the more I am impressed by just how many health issues it can help with, as you mentioned in your other comment that others have perfect teeth and were on a low carb diet, I think this makes alot of sense I know sugar can be a really big issue health wise.

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  7. Nathan says:

    Admiring the persistence you put into your site and in
    depth information you provide. It’s awesome to come across a blog every once in a while that isn’t the same out of date rehashed material.
    Wonderful read! I’ve saved your site and I’m adding your RSS feeds to my Google account.

  8. Pete says:

    What type of vitamin D were they using? Was is from a food source or synthesized? Was it D2 or D3? Thanks. Great Blog!

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