Vitamin C has become increasingly popular in recent years, thanks to the misguided efforts of Linus Pauling, who published a book in 1970 recommending megadoses of C to prevent the common cold. However, as Paul Offit explains in his book, Do You Believe in Magic?, Pauling was wrong about vitamin C. While it is generally safe, megadoses of 2000 mg or more can increase the risk of kidney stones. Additionally, 100 grams of spinach contain healthy amounts of vitamins A, C, E, K, several B vitamins and essential minerals such as iron and calcium. The Consumer Reports (CR) team, with the help of a panel of doctors and researchers, have identified 10 risky supplements that should be avoided.
In general, the risk increases with higher doses and longer supplement use. It is also important to be aware of the ingredients in illegal or unapproved medications such as tianeptine, methylsynephrine and phenibut. Manufacturers can add vitamins, minerals and other supplement ingredients to foods like breakfast cereals and beverages. As a result, you may be consuming more than you think and more may not be better.
Taking more than you need costs more and may also increase the risk of side effects. For example, too much vitamin A can cause headaches and liver damage, reduce bone strength and cause birth defects. Excess iron causes nausea and vomiting and can damage the liver and other organs. It is important to inform your healthcare providers (including doctors, dentists, pharmacists and dieticians) about any dietary supplements you are taking. Many doctors warn that supplements should not be administered unsupervised as taking too many can harm the body.
It is also important to be careful when giving supplements to a child unless recommended by their health care provider. Products sold as dietary supplements come with a supplemental information label that lists the active ingredients, the amount per serving (dose) and other ingredients such as fillers, binders and flavorings. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) does not determine if dietary supplements are effective before they are marketed. The federal government can take legal action against companies and websites that sell dietary supplements when companies make false or misleading statements about their products or promote them as treatments or cures for diseases or if their products are not safe. Supplement companies are responsible for having proof that their products are safe and that the claims on the label are truthful and not misleading. The Office of Dietary Supplements website has a helpful form called My Dietary Supplement and Medicine Record which you can print and complete at home.
Evidence-based research has found that supplementing your diet with any of these 5 vitamins has little or no benefit and can harm you. The Federal Trade Commission which oversees product advertising also requires that information about a supplement be truthful and not misleading. Some dieticians recommend that people talk to a doctor before taking any nutritional supplement, as overuse can lead to serious health complications. Research has not yet found serious health complications from excessive use of melatonin in adults although an excessive amount of the supplement can cause fatigue and mood swings. The risks associated with taking dietary supplements can be serious and increase with higher doses and longer supplement use. It is important to be aware of what supplements you are taking, how much you are taking, how long you have been taking them for, what ingredients they contain, what potential side effects they may have, whether they interact with any medications you may be taking, whether they have been approved by the FDA or other regulatory bodies, whether they have been tested for safety or efficacy by independent third parties. By understanding these risks associated with dietary supplements, you can make an informed decision about whether or not they are right for you.