Vitamins can do a body good – you know that. But how much is too much?
Vitamin overdose is a real thing and, frankly, not that hard to do. If you take a multi-vitamin every morning, eat a bowl of fortified cereal, have a protein bar for a snack and then enjoy a small bowl of enriched spaghetti for lunch, you’re already over your daily nutrient limit by the time dinner rolls around. When this happens, you’re in danger of hypervitaminosis, excess amounts of vitamins in the body.
Fortify your knowledge
There are two kinds of vitamins: fat-soluble vitamins that are stored in the body’s liver and fatty tissue, and used when they’re needed (A, D, E K); and water-soluble vitamins that only stay in your blood stream for a few hours (B-complex, C).
According to Norman Hord, PhD, MPH, RD, associate professor in the department of Food Science and Human Nutrition at Michigan State University, an excess of fat-soluble vitamins can be toxic. They harm tissues where the vitamins are stored in the body, and can contribute to things like birth defects, a raised risk of lung cancer in smokers, hemorrhaging and lessening the effectiveness of prescription medication.
In addition, if you’re getting your daily allowance of vitamins B and C through your diet (enriched grains and citrus fruits), you are probably flushing your money down the toilet on the water-soluble ones. Plus, there’s now evidence that too much of the water-soluble kinds can lead to kidney stones and nerve problems, in addition to help mask other deficiencies in the body. That can be a tough pill to swallow if, like tens of millions of Americans, you’ve always believed supplemental vitamins must be a good thing.
The lowdown on upping your intake
Talk to your doctor about what you may need based on blood test results or conversations about things like heavy periods or pregnancy. In other words, be purposeful about supplement intake. If you don’t particularly like milk, yogurt and cheese, chances are you’re not getting enough calcium. So, talk to your doctor about a calcium supplement. Likewise, if you’re pregnant, your baby is going to need a great deal of folic acid to ward off things like spinal bifida, so make sure you take a supplement during that time. Other examples include heavy periods or anemia, in which case your doctor will probably recommend an iron supplement; a potassium supplement may be in order if you have high blood pressure; and a vitamin D supplement is a good idea if you live in a city where the sun doesn’t shine much, or you have dark skin.
The consensus from doctors is that you can take a multivitamin for a little extra assurance if you’re constantly on the go and not able to eat heathy, balanced meals on a regular basis. But, don’t be fooled into thinking popping one a day is going to give you life-saving benefits. There is no substitution for the vitamins and minerals we get from food.
Don’t go on intuition
Get the facts. Check out The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services website and take a look at their vitamin and mineral fact sheet. Ultimately, the choice is yours but, like with anything that has to do with your health, self-diagnosing can be dangerous. Bottom line is that it’s definitely tastier to pop a blueberry instead of a pill. And it might be better for you in the long run, too.