Taking more than the recommended amount of vitamins and minerals can be costly and may also increase the risk of side effects. For instance, too much vitamin A can cause headaches, liver damage, reduce bone strength, and even lead to birth defects. Excess iron can cause nausea and vomiting, as well as damage the liver and other organs. Too much vitamin C or zinc can cause nausea, diarrhea, and stomach cramps.
Excess selenium can lead to hair loss, gastrointestinal disorders, fatigue, and mild nerve damage. When it comes to the potential harms that could result from dietary supplements, most people only think about the side effects. These can occur from short- or long-term use and can also cause new diseases or alter existing conditions. Certain supplements during pregnancy and breastfeeding also carry risks. As the number of medications and supplements increases, so does the chance that something will go wrong.
This includes the risk of side effects, drug interactions, or making a mistake. It's important to note that taking a vitamin supplement won't necessarily make feelings of stress go away. In addition, dietary supplement packages are not required to include possible side effects, nor are there any rules on the maximum size of pills (an obvious risk for older people). Some complementary medications, such as vitamin and mineral supplements, can interact with prescription drugs and medical treatments. Folic acid is a B vitamin that can also be found in some fortified foods, such as bread and breakfast cereals. When vitamins are taken as supplements, they are introduced into the body at levels that could never be achieved with the healthiest diet.
As with all medications, if you have any side effects or problems after taking dietary supplements, report them to the TGA. Many people mistakenly believe that since small amounts of vitamins are good for your health, large amounts should be better. Many people are unaware of the risk of overdosing with the same ingredient, such as vitamin B6 or vitamin A, which is more likely when taken in multiple products. This week, an article was published in Australian Prescripber that identifies six possible harms of taking vitamin and mineral supplements. A study published in The New England Journal of Medicine found that the adverse effects of supplements were responsible for an average of about 23,000 emergency department (ED) visits per year. For example, a 50-year-old woman concerned about her bones could eat Whole Grain Total cereal for breakfast which contains about 1000 milligrams of calcium per serving with half a cup of skim milk (150 milligrams of calcium) and take a calcium supplement (500 milligrams) in addition to her One-A-Day Menopause Formula multivitamin formula which includes 300 milligrams of calcium.
Nowadays, everything from bottled water to orange juice seems to have high levels of vitamins and minerals. And if you need to take a supplement it's best to take multivitamins at the recommended dietary level rather than single-nutrient supplements or high-dose multivitamins. Weight-loss products accounted for a quarter of all emergency department visits with a single product and disproportionately affected women while men were more likely to suffer adverse effects from products advertised for sexual enhancement and bodybuilding. It is essential to remember that taking more than you need costs more and may also increase the risk of side effects. If you think you might be lacking certain vitamins and minerals it might be best to consider changing your diet and lifestyle rather than resorting to supplements.