People who have experienced the positive effects from vitamins and supplements sometimes get carried away and think that if a low dose works okay, then a higher dose will work much better. In some cases, this is true, like if you are trying to prevent a cold by taking extra vitamin C. However in some cases this is not true. In fact, taking high doses of some vitamins can make someone ill or even cause death. That is why it is very important to make sure that the vitamins and supplements you are taking do not build up in your system to become a lethal dose.
One of the most harmful supplements to take too much of is iron. This is especially true for many older people who fear that their blood is iron-poor and will begin taking supplements to make sure that they are getting enough iron so that they don’t become anemic. This is the worst thing that they can do.
Excess iron can be very dangerous because it helps free radicals to damage cells. For example, excess iron can change benign LDL cholesterol into the toxic type that wrecks the arteries and causes heart failure. Studies have shown that men with the highest amount of iron in their blood were twice as likely to have heart attacks. Other studies have shown that eating too much meat with iron in it will speed up the process of getting heart disease.
Because excess iron speeds of the creation of free radicals, it has been implicated as a carcinogen as well. Cancer patients who have been studied for higher levels of iron in their blood have been found to have a greater risk for cancer, especially those who ate a diet high in red meat. Those who ate about five ounces of iron-rich meat a day were 250 percent more like to develop colon cancer than those who did not.
There are several other vitamins and supplements that can be deadly when taken in high doses or for too long a period of time. Vitamins A and D, and niacin can all have adverse effects, resulting in liver damage, heart disease, loss of nerve function, and increased risk of cancer. Overdoses of other supplements can cause milder medical problems like diarrhea, stomach pain, and sleeplessness. Large doses of niacin should not be taken by those who are pregnant or suffering from gout, peptic ulcers, glaucoma, liver disease, or diabetes.
Vitamin A should not be taken in large amounts in pill form or as cod liver oil by those suffering from liver disease. Pregnant women should avoid amounts of vitamin A over 25,000 IU. Children who are going to be taking vitamin A for more than one month should not take over 18,000 IU. If you are on any medication, check with your doctor before taking vitamin A as a supplement, as it can interfere with some medications.
These are only a few of the situations where taking too many vitamins and supplements can turn deadly. If you are going to take a vitamin or supplement other than a multivitamin for a special reason, make sure to read up about it before you start a vitamin regimen. You may find that taking a combination of vitamins can be harmful, or that what higher doses you want to take may not be necessary. At any rate, it is always best to stick with a premeasured multivitamin if you don’t feel like you have enough information to successfully treat an illness with supplements.