Can vitamin supplements be dangerous?


When it comes to supplements, more is not always better. Vitamins and minerals are essential to health, but that doesn’t mean that huge doses will prevent you from falling ill. Nowadays, everything from bottled water to orange juice seems to have added vitamins and minerals. But this overload can hurt you.

Vitamin C: Vitamin C can be found in citrus fruits, melons, tomatoes, papayas, capsicum and strawberries. Adult males should get 90 mg a day, while women should aim for 75 mg. Smokers may need extra vitamin C. Some people take it to protect against the common cold, but a review of 30 clinical trials found no evidence that vitamin C prevents colds. Also, studies haven’t supported claims that high doses of vitamin C can fight cancer and heart disease. Very high doses of vitamin C supplements may cause diarrhoea, nausea, vomiting, heartburn, abdominal bloating and cramps, headache, insomnia and kidney stones.

Beta-Carotene: Studies suggest that beta carotene supplementation may actually increase the risk of lung cancer. Healthy adults can get the required amount of beta-carotene (in the form of vitamin A) in natural form from food sources like carrots, pumpkin, spinach and papaya.

Folic Acid: Aim to get 400 micrograms of folic acid, found in green leafy vegetables, seeds and nuts, beetroot and carrots, every day. It is known to reduce the risk of neural tube defects in newborns, so it is advised for pregnant women. Some doctors warn that folic acid supplements could increase risk of colon cancer. Only women who are pregnant or may become pregnant are advised to take the supplement.

Vitamin E: Vitamin E is found in vegetable oil, nuts, and leafy green vegetables. It was believed to prevent heart disease and cancer but there are no scientific studies to support this finding. In fact, there are suggestions that those who took Vitamin E supplements have an increased risk of strokes. One study found that vitamin E from food—but not supplements—helps prevent Alzheimer’s disease.

Selenium: Selenium is a trace mineral required by the body for its proper growth and functioning. Try to get 55 micrograms of selenium from natural sources, like whole wheat, brown rice, mushroom, spinach, beef and poultry. Research has shown that selenium supplements might increase the risk of prostate cancer in men. It could also be one of the worst supplements for diabetes. In 2007, a study found that there is 50% increased risk of type 2 diabetes in people who took 200 micrograms a day.

Vitamin B6: Adults on an average need 1.4 mg daily of vitamin B6 which is found in baked potatoes, bananas, chickpeas, red meat, poultry and eggs. Vitamin B6, along with the other B vitamins, helps the body turn food into energy. It is thought to curb mental decline and prevent heart disease but research does not support these beliefs. In fact, high doses of B6 can cause severe sensory nerve damage, leading to numbness and loss of control of bodily movements.

Vitamin B12: Vitamin B12-rich foods include fish and shellfish, lean beef, and fortified breakfast cereal. Vegetarians tend to be low in this vitamin, which can cause anemia, weakness, muscle weakness, loss of appetite, dementia and many more. Thus they take supplements. However, high doses of B12 have not been proven to prevent cognitive loss, and they don’t boost energy.

Zinc:hltmtr24pg Zinc is a mineral that is required to ensure proper functioning of cells. For those who consume non-vegetarian food, fish would be an excellent source of zinc. Vegetarians can get zinc from walnuts, almonds, cashews and other dry fruits and nuts. Some believe that zinc can prevent and treat symptoms of the common cold, but there is not enough evidence. High doses can actually weaken the immune system.

Talk to your doctor about taking supplements if you are a woman of childbearing age, are a vegetarian or vegan, have limited exposure to the sun, are an athlete in training, or suspect, for any reason, you may be malnourished. Include a variety of fruits, vegetables, grains and nuts to get vitamins and minerals from natural sources. If you are taking supplements, ensure that they are within limits


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