Taking supplemental vitamins, including multivitamins, is popular among American adults. Most people consider over-the-counter vitamins to be safe and believe them to have some health benefits. But where does the science actually fall on taking vitamins? And what are the effects for the long-term? The truth about the health benefits and consequences of taking vitamins is somewhat mixed, and there are still unknowns. Read on for more details.
When Is Taking Supplemental Vitamins Beneficial?
All humans need to get a certain amount of vitamins and minerals regularly to be healthy. Ideally, everyone would accomplish this by continually eating a complete and nutritious diet. Of course, it is unlikely that every person will eat this well all the time. Not doing so can cause gaps in nutrition and deficiencies. That is one area where taking supplemental vitamins can be beneficial – correcting deficiencies. It is particularly true if someone cannot get specific vitamins from meals because of diet restrictions caused by either lifestyle choices or health conditions. Regardless, one thing to watch out for is exceeding one’s DRI or Dietary Reference Intake. That is the maximum amount of any one vitamin or mineral you should take each day. Usually, dosages on vitamin labels include the percentage of your daily DRI that each dose contains. Most health professionals and regulators consider dosages of up to 100% DRI to be safe.
What Are the Side Effects of Vitamins?
The danger from vitamins can come when you take too much. This scenario might occur for several reasons such as:
- If you take more than the amount directed by a doctor or by the manufacturer.
- If your diet is rich in vitamins, and you also take supplements. Fortified foods have extra nutrients added in, which can contribute to this kind of problem.
- If the vitamin manufacturer purposefully includes more than 100% DRI for any reason.
- If the dosages on the label are not accurate. Keep in mind that the government does not regulate vitamins as strictly as medications. Some manufacturers use third-party labs to verify the contents of their products.
Some side effects associated with taking supplemental vitamins are temporary, mild, and commonplace. They appear to be part of the process of your body adjusting to the sudden increase in nutrients. These side effects are typically gut-related and can include constipation, upset stomach, diarrhea, and nausea. Under normal circumstances, these symptoms resolve as your body grows accustomed to the supplements. Rarer side effects are more likely to occur because someone exceeds a vitamin’s daily safe upper limit (UL). These can take the form of nosebleeds, insomnia, gout, or headaches. You should see a doctor if you experience any of these worrying side effects, and you need to seek help immediately if you have an allergic reaction to any vitamins. Signs of an allergic response might be swelling of the face, lips, throat, or tongue, hives, or difficulty breathing. When it comes to side effects in children, you need to be especially careful because overdosing happens much more readily in kids and at much lower dosages. Even vitamins marketed to children are not necessarily safe. As a precaution, you should only give vitamins to children in coordination with a pediatrician’s advice.
Other Causes of Vitamin Side Effects
There is one other way that supplemental vitamins can adversely affect your health. Aside from ingesting too much of any vitamin, you could also potentially consume other toxic compounds that supplements may contain. If the manufacturer is not diligent in preventing it, vitamins can have harmful substances like arsenic or lead mixed into them. These can lead to a whole host of nasty and possibly irreversible health problems.
Are Vitamins Harmful Long-Term?
Whether continually taking vitamins is bad for you over the long-term depends on if the type and amount of vitamin you are taking is harmful to you, period. Some side effects set in quickly. Thus, you can detect when there is a problem and hopefully correct your vitamin-taking habits. Unfortunately, others take much longer to appear. That is because some excesses of nutrients or errant toxins found in your vitamin supplements accumulate in your tissues over time. Therefore, these effects are gradual, and you may not know your vitamins are the culprit until the damage is done. Examples of such long-term health effects include birth defects, liver damage, heart damage, and cognitive issues. When in doubt, it is best to speak to a health professional if you want to start taking vitamin supplements constantly over a long period. We have experts on staff who can help, so please call us at 205-352-9141 for advice.