Image Courtesy: Kevin Elliott
I once worked as an office assistant for a man who, quite literally, swallowed close to 20 vitamin supplements on a daily basis. “I want to live forever”, he told me, washing back a handful of pills.
The crazy thing is that he isn’t alone. Supplements and vitamin-fortified foods are more popular than ever. And there is certainly a wide body of evidence to suggest that many of these supplements have health benefits that can easily have you believing that you will indeed live forever (or at least well into old age), if you take them regularly.
Still, I couldn’t help thinking that shelling out hundreds of dollars each month on bottled vitamins was a bit extreme. In fact, a 2003 New York Times article titled Vitamins: More May Be Too Many showed that Americans are more likely to suffer from vitamin overdose than they are from a shortage.
When Should You Supplement?
Most medical professionals would agree that as long as you’re eating a nutritionally-balanced diet, supplements aren’t necessary, but an all-in-one multivitamin can fill in any gaps that you might have missed with solid food. And though serious side effects of taking vitamin supplements are rare, the overwhelming consensus seems to be that if you can get it from your diet – as is the case with the majority of vitamins found in a “multivitamin” — going that route is probably a smarter move. If you have a health condition that depletes the body of a certain vitamin, however, that’s when you should consider taking it in supplemental form.
What happens When You Take Too Much?
Furthermore, the body will ordinarily excrete vitamins taken in excess, but some can actually cause health issues if too much is ingested. Vitamin fanatics, take heed – too much. Take a look below at some of the likely side effects of consuming unnecessary high doses of some of these vitamins:
- Vitamin A: can cause nausea, vomiting, dizziness, headache and blurred vision
- Vitamin B-6: can cause temporary nerve damage
- Vitamin C: can cause diarrhea, an increased risk of kidney stones
- Vitamin D: can cause nausea, vomiting, poor appetite, constipation, weakness, and weight loss
- Iron: can cause hemochromatosis (iron-overload), which may lead to damage of major organs
- Calcium: can cause hypercalcemia, decreased absorption of minerals, impaired kidney function
- Potassium: can cause irregular heartbeats and is especially dangerous to those with kidney or heart disease
- Magnesium: can cause diarrhea and abdominal cramping; very large doses can cause magnesium toxicity
I don’t know about you, but I’ll be taking my vitamins during my next nutritionally-rich MEAL. I strongly believe that nature provided us with all the required ingredients of a healthy life within what it produces for us. Sadly, somewhere along the way, we lost sight of this vital fact and need to re-embrace the natural ways of living.
Too Many Vitamins? [Tufts]
Adrienne writes for special-interest magazines and has worked on the production of women’s lifestyle channels at AOL as well as at E! Entertainment Television. She graduated from CUNY Baruch, where she served as the editor-in-chief of the award-winning student newspaper The Ticker.