Can You Overdose on Vitamins?

marcom@healthxchange.com.sg (healthxchange.sg)
Can You Overdose on Vitamins?

Vitamins can benefit the body but they can also potentially cause health risks if consumed in excess. A Senior Pharmacist from the Pharmacy Department at Singapore General Hospital (SGH) explains. (iStock photo)

When it comes to vitamins and minerals, moderation is key

Vitamins A, C and E are known as antioxidants that can help prevent cancer. But taking excessive amounts of vitamin C can cause diarrhoea, or worse, kidney stones. Similarly, too much vitamin A can lead to serious health risks, including damage to the liver. This is because the body absorbs some vitamins – such as A and E – and minerals only slowly. Taking more than the daily recommended levels can lead to a steady buildup of these substances in the liver and fatty tissues, which increases the risk of reaching toxic levels.

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Water-soluble vitamin C is flushed out of the body when too much is consumed. "Even so," said Mr Johnathan Diong, Senior Pharmacist at the Pharmacy Department of Singapore General Hospital (SGH), a member of the SingHealth group, "it can be harmful in a normal healthy individual when taken at very high doses over a long period." Vitamins and minerals play different roles in the proper growth and functioning of the body.

Calcium and phosphate are crucial for bone formation, while iron is essential for the production of red blood cells.

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Vitamins and minerals are present naturally in the foods we eat. Thus, eating a balanced meal with a wide variety of fresh meat, grains and vegetables ought to supply the body with all the vitamins and minerals it needs. But long hours at work and the convenience of takeout meals mean many are not getting their full recommended daily dose of vitamins and minerals.

In such cases, taking a daily multivitamin can help ensure nutritional requirements are met. However, some take supplements in large amounts with the belief that it can help delay ageing, prevent disease and enhance mental or physical abilities. This is inaccurate, as with all good things, moderation is the key to maintaining a strong and healthy body.

Related article: Essential vitamins and the foods that contain them

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