The Risks of Multivitamins

With the development of fitness industry and dietary science, more and more people turn their attention to nutritional supplements, vitamins, and antioxidants in particular. With every sports magazine promoting a healthy, vitamin-rich diet, and aggressive marketing campaigns run by additive manufacturers, the idea of enriching your diet with a couple of magical pills, available over the counter at every chemist’s shop, looks very alluring.

However, fans of this modern tendency most likely know little about what kind of nutrients they take, fat soluble or water soluble, and what disadvantages such supplements may have. Unless you take vitamins as part of a special treatment plan prescribed by your doctor, getting too many of them may result in numerous side effects at the very least.

It should be kept in mind that we already receive the majority of nutrients from food, so before buying any supplementary product, it’s highly recommended to know what elements, if any, your body lacks, and build your supplement intake correspondingly.  The excessive amount of seemingly healthy vitamins can damage body tissues responsible for the vitamin storage and processing, meaning your organism’s ability to absorb and excrete vitamins will drop.

Fat Soluble Vitamins

The challenge doubles when it comes to fat-soluble vitamins A, D and E. Unlike their water-soluble siblings, usually completely excreted via bile, these elements tend to be stored in the body, and can eventually exceed the normal level, causing hypervitaminosis. In pursuit of a fast result, athletes, constantly going beyond the recommended dose, get into a risk group of developing this condition and eventually suffering from headache, nausea, skin irritation, inflammation, abdominal pain, etc. It takes the affected tissues some time to recover, meaning that a person suffers from hypervitaminosis long after the supplement intake is stopped.

Moreover, it’s important to understand that many products, like fish oil, which don’t belong to a vitamin group, nevertheless contain a significant amount of vitamins. More specifically, if you already take omega-3 fats, additional consumption of Vitamins A and D puts you at risk.

Overdose Symptoms

Though belonging to one group of fat-soluble vitamins, Vitamins A, D, and E cause different types of hypervitaminosis with distinct manifestation. The symptoms of hypervitaminosis A include dizziness, vomiting, lethargy, visual issues, loss of appetite, and even liver failure. A vivid example of the vitamin A toxicity is carotenosis, which occurs due to an excessive amount of beta carotene consumption. Unless the intake of vitamin-rich foods or supplements is stopped, there is a possibility of developing such complications as kidney damage or liver damage. Moreover, pregnant women, consuming too much vitamin A, may face issues with the abnormal development of the fetus.

People suffering from hypervitaminosis D often complain of weight loss, high level of calcium in the blood, and tissue calcification. Apart from excessive consumption of supplements, this disorder is also caused by estrogen therapy and long-time antituberculosis medication. Possible health problems that can be caused by the Vitamin D overdose include dehydration, kidney damage and hypercalcemia.

Excessive intake of Vitamin E can influence blood clotting and lead to hemorrhage. Other symptoms of the Vitamin E poisoning are muscle pain and regular cramps. As well as other overdoses, hypervitaminosis E during pregnancy can result in abnormalities in the fetus.

Long-Term Health Effects

As for today, researchers can’t give the exact answer to what impact supplements have on our bodies when taken regularly. The topic issue scientists are studying at the moment is whether multivitamin intake is associated with cancer rates, be it a decrease or increase of incidence. Different studies suggest conflicting results, and though many find no connection between the vitamin use and cancer development, there are few showing the excessive supplement intake may contribute to increase of certain cancers. But these are the data for individuals who had health problems before enrolment into the study, so this result can’t apply to a general population. Anyway, the final verdict is yet to be delivered after more randomized, placebo-controlled trials are conducted.

Multivitamin Recommendations

Despite possible benefits of properly balanced vitamin intake, it should be noted no supplements can serve as food substitutes. The best way to get all nutrients necessary for the proper body functioning is by eating many fresh, unprocessed fruits and vegetables. Many studies suggest there is no need for healthy individuals following a balanced nutritional plan routinely to add supplement into their diet, as it most likely will have no effect, good or bad, on their overall condition. But if you do sports professionally or lack certain nutrients due to a poor diet (for example, you live in a country with long winters during which fresh greens are hardly available), taking additional supplements may be a good idea to support your body and possibly prevent chronic diseases.

Moreover, people who are deprived of sun, for example, due to constant office work, may need additional Vitamin D, as the main percentage if this vitamin is produced when you’re exposed to sunlight. Vegans are at risk of being vitamin-deficient too, as many nutrients come in animal products, so they may need to consider enriching their diet with the appropriate nutrients such as the vitamin B12. Whatever the case, before deciding to take any supplements, it’s highly advisable to consult your doctor and have certain tests, if needed.

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