Why Are Too Many Vitamins Bad for You?

It may be better to get your vitamins from food

Some people wonder why vitamins are bad for you. Actually, it's not vitamins that may be bad for you - it may be too much of a good thing in the form of vitamin supplement pills. Vitamins aren't bad for you per se, but taking too many supplements and vitamins pills may indeed cause harm.

Why Vitamins Are Bad for You

Vitamins are substances necessary to sustain human life, growth and development. The first vitamin was discovered by Dr. William Fletcher in 1905. Dr. Fletcher studied nutrition, and he realized that polished or white rice lacked something special. People who ate brown rice remained health, but those eating nothing but white, polished rice came down with a disease called beriberi. He discovered that B-vitamins in brown rice ward off beriberi.

Throughout history, however, people intuitively recognized that foods could stave off many diseases. British sailors were called 'limeys' because limes were taken aboard their ships and eaten by sailors to ward off scurvy, a disease we now know results from vitamin C deficiency. Many diseases that plagued our ancestors are now rare thanks to nutritional science, which demonstrated the values of eating certain foods to ward off disease.

Vitamin Overdose

But even too much of a good thing can be bad for you. A little sunshine, for example, is healthy, but too much can result in severe sunburn. The same thing goes for vitamins. Individual supplements may be formulated to provide the recommended daily allowance, or RDA of a vitamin, but taking more than the dosage listed on the package may result in an overdose. This is particularly problematic with so-called fat soluble vitamins. Fat soluble vitamins are stored in the fat cells within the body. If you take more than what is needed immediately, the body stores them for another time. Too much of these vitamins can be toxic.

Symptoms of Vitamin Overdose

Some of the most common vitamins people take too much of include:

  • Vitamin A: Vitamin A overdoses result in severe abdominal pain, mood swings, exhaustion, and decreased appetite. If not corrected, it can lead to serious liver problems.
  • Vitamin D: A vitamin D overdose is called hypervitaminosis D. Too much vitamin D may result in excess calcium. Calcium deposits can form in the lungs, heart and kidneys. Kidney stones or other conditions may develop. Symptoms can include bone pain, muscle loss, sudden weight loss, and extreme fatigue.
  • Vitamin E: Extremely high doses of vitamin E can cause such unpleasant side effects as diarrhea and stomach cramps. The most severe side effect is an increased risk of bleeding, since too much vitamin E can interfere with your blood's ability to clot. Sometimes people who overdose on vitamin E need medication to prevent bleeding problems.
  • Vitamin K: Infants may be especially prone to vitamin K overdose, so do not give excess vitamin K supplements to children unless under the supervision of a physician. Symptoms may include profuse sweating and jaundice. The skin can also flush and turn bright pink.

Most vitamin overdoses can be reversed. Just stop taking the extra vitamin pills. In severe cases, see a doctor for medical treatment.

The Bottom Line on Vitamins

Why vitamins are bad for you is really a matter of taking the correct dose and watching extra doses of fat soluble vitamins. Of more importance, perhaps, is the question of whether or not vitamins do any good for you. Taking a good quality supplement and eating a health diet are essential to good health. Whether or not to take extra vitamin supplements is a personal choice, but most of the time, vitamins will do no harm, and can potentially do much good to ward off everything from the common cold to skin problems.

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Why Are Too Many Vitamins Bad for You?