Everyone wants to make sure that they’re consuming all of the vitamins and minerals that they need. Giving your body what it needs is one of the simplest things you can do to stay healthy. Unfortunately, most people don’t eat the daily recommended amounts of every nutrient on a regular basis. If they did, the supplement industry in America wouldn’t be raking in $122 billion per year. Taking a pill to shore up a dietary deficit is incredibly convenient, and Americans are willing to pay a lot for that convenience.
Unfortunately, this convenience also comes with a risk. Making vitamins and minerals easier to consume also it makes it easier overdose on them. It’s pretty difficult to eat too many nutrients in food form, but depending on what nutrient you’re talking about, a few pills can seriously hurt you, or even kill. Among these supplements, here are a few that you should be aware of.
Consuming more than 45mg of iron a day is enough to constitute an overdose in most people. For men, that’s only about 5 times the recommended daily allowance (RDA), and less than 3 times for women. A severe overdose can lead to vomiting, diarrhea rapid breathing and heart rate, seizures, and unconsciousness. Often sufferers will feel better after a couple of days, before experiencing liver failure. Children are especially vulnerable to iron poisoning, which is why most chewable multivitamins contain very little iron.
Because this vitamin tends to build up in the body, it’s fairly easy to take too much of it. Some studies have suggested that taking double the RDA of vitamin A on a regular basis is enough to cause birth defects and liver damage. Exceeding that dosage on a regular basis can cause poor vision, nausea, peeling skin, jaundice, hair loss, bone pain, mouth ulcers, and poor appetite. Overall, it sounds an awful lot like radiation sickness in vitamin form.
I can speak about this from personal experience. I once took two zinc pills after I forgot that I had taken one earlier in the day. It was not fun, to say the least. I felt chills, nausea, light-headed, and a suffered from a rather foggy brain for several hours. However, I got off lucky.
Taking too much zinc can cause vomiting headaches, cramps, diarrhea, and in the worst cases can lead to kidney failure. Taking too much zinc over a long period of time can cause anemia, heart problems, and seriously mess up your immune system, which will make you more vulnerable to all kinds of infections. Which is ironic, since most people take zinc to support their immune systems.
This may be one of the easiest nutrients to overuse. That’s because we’re all constantly told to consume more calcium to keep our bones strong and to prevent osteoporosis. The problem with that is that it’s probably safe to say that most people living in the developed world don’t have a calcium deficiency. We have one of the most dairy-rich diets on the planet, so it’s not something we should be too concerned about.
When you combine those two factors, it’s easy to see how the average person could be consuming too much calcium. We already eat a lot of dairy, and since we’re all so concerned about getting more calcium, lots of foods are fortified with this mineral. And on top of that, there are a lot of people who consume calcium based antacids on a regular basis. And finally, supplementing vitamin D is also pretty common, which increases calcium absorption. The last thing we need is to be taking calcium supplements, but we do.
You probably shouldn’t supplement calcium unless a doctor tells you to, because consuming too much calcium over a long period of time can lead to kidney stones, kidney damage, or even kidney failure. One study found that only eating slightly more than the RDA can significantly increase your risk of developing heart disease or die of any cause. Other studies have suggested that eating too much calcium can actually weaken your bones.
So take caution before you consume any supplement. Like anything you eat, there is such a thing as “too much.” It’s always a good idea to keep track of what you eat and study the nutrient profiles of your food on a regular basis. Before you take any supplement, you need to know if you’re really deficient in a particular vitamin or mineral. Otherwise, doing something that most people think of as “healthy,” like supplementing our diets with pills, can turn out to be an incredibly unhealthy decision.