Vitamin and mineral supplements are a huge part of the health and fitness culture. There is a supplement to take for virtually every common ailment. In reality, if you eat a balanced diet, and are otherwise healthy, you can receive virtually all the required vitamins and minerals from natural foods. Many people are taking supplements they may not need, and, in some cases, may be causing potentially dangerous damage. If you are taking any of these supplements, or any other supplements not listed here, it’s recommended that you discuss them with your doctor. Here are 9 supplements that you might want to stop taking, today.
1) Vitamin B6
Although vitamin B6 is water-soluble and therefore does not accumulate in the body, too much of it can cause other problems. Too much B6, that is, more than 300 mg per day, can cause nerve toxicity. As such, people taking supplements rich in B6 may experience numbness in their limbs. Excess B6 has also been associated with skin lesions and may increase your risk of heart attack, stroke, and death in diabetic patients with kidney disease. There is no evidence that taking large doses of vitamin B6 has any health benefits, so unless you have a B6 deficiency and your doctor has advised you to take it, it is probably in your best interest to stay away from these supplements.
Calcium is a very important mineral for many reasons, including the maintenance of good bone health. However, unless you have a deficiency and your doctor advises you take supplements, you may want to consider getting your calcium from natural sources such as dairy, broccoli, and salmon. The National Institutes of Health issued a study in 2013 that suggested there is a higher risk of cardiovascular disease in men who take calcium supplements. Additionally, if you are ingesting too much calcium, you can get a condition called hypercalcemia. People with mild hypercalcemia may not have noticeable symptoms. However, a severe degree of excess calcium can lead to kidney pain, abdominal and digestive issues, muscle twitching and weakness, bone issues, and even psychological symptoms including depression and memory loss. Some causes of hypercalcemia include hyperthyroidism, lung diseases and cancers, medication, dehydration, and dietary supplements. Mild cases may be only monitored, but severe cases often lead to hospitalization. Therefore, it is best to consult a doctor and get medical tests if you suspect you have a calcium deficiency. Otherwise you may end up overdosing your calcium intake and harming yourself in the process.
3) Vitamin A
Vitamin A is crucial for eye health and fetal development, in small doses. But if you consume way too much in a short period of time or an excess over a long period of time, it can build up and you may suffer from acute or chronic vitamin A toxicity, respectively. Acute hypervitaminosis A can have symptoms including drowsiness, nausea, and increased pressure on the brain. Chronic toxicity can have an even wider array of effects, including blurry vision, bone pain, jaundice, skin problems, hair loss, and respiratory infections. And although pregnant women need vitamin A in order for their fetus to develop, too much can lead to birth defects which may impact the skull and major organs. So for pregnant women, it’s extremely important to only take Vitamin A exactly as prescribed by your doctor. For most people, unless vitamin A toxicity has led to kidney or liver damage, a full recovery is likely simply by reducing vitamin A intake, and a primary method of doing so is to stop any vitamin A supplements.
4) Vitamin C
Since your body does not produce vitamin C, it may seem like a good idea to take supplements just to make sure you consume enough, but in reality, dietary vitamin C is usually enough. The upper limit for intake is 2,000 mg per day, but the recommended dose is actually much lower, at 65 to 90 mg daily. Generally, overdoses of vitamin C do not result from dietary changes, but from taking unnecessary supplements. Some of the side effects of vitamin C toxicity are digestive issues and abdominal bloating, heartburn, insomnia, headaches, and kidney stones. As such, it is crucial not to take in too much of this essential nutrient.
5) Vitamin D
Although you would have to consume quite a lot of vitamin D to cause problems, if you take in more than 40,000 international units daily for several months, or one extremely high dose, your health can suffer. Vitamin D is fat soluble, which means that it can accumulate in your body if you take in more than necessary. This can cause the liver to produce a chemical which leads to high levels of blood calcium. As previously mentioned, hypercalcemia can have a whole slew of harmful effects including problems with the kidneys, abdomen, bones, and mental health. Due to this relationship between vitamin D and calcium, it is important to keep in mind that if you take both supplements, it can compound the effects.
Manganese in normal doses plays a significant role in nervous system function and formation of bones, tissues, and certain hormones. It is worth noting that a relatively large fraction of the American population may not take in enough manganese, but it is important to nonetheless be cautious when considering daily supplements, as too high doses can have toxic effects. The upper tolerable amount is 11 mg per day for adults, and various lower amounts at different ages in childhood. High levels of manganese in the body are associated with neurological problems and symptoms as severe as muscle rigidity, hallucinations, and tendencies to violent behavior. People with liver damage or who are regularly exposed to manganese fumes are at higher risk for manganese toxicity. It can also help to be informed about how much manganese is in your local water supply, as that can be an unanticipated source of this mineral.
Although iron is an essential mineral, either too little or too much can have dangerous effects, and sometimes the body’s mechanisms for regulating absorption are not effective enough to avert these consequences. Overdosing on iron, that is, taking even 10-20 mg/kg or more, can cause iron poisoning, which requires medical attention if severe. Some of the symptoms of iron poisoning include stomach problems such as pain, nausea, and vomiting. If you continue to take in too much iron on a regular basis and it accumulates in the body, it can ultimately have potentially fatal effects on the brain and liver. Iron supplements are particularly dangerous for people with hereditary hemochromatosis, which causes excessive iron absorption. But even if you do not have this disorder, if your body does absorb too much iron, you are at a higher risk of developing certain cancers, as well as more susceptible to infection. Therefore, it is crucial to only take iron supplements if instructed to do so by a medical professional.
Selenium is incorporated into several proteins which play major roles in key reactions in the human body. But like so many other key nutrients, it is needed in only minute amounts and can cause toxicity if too much is taken in. Early warning signs that you may be ingesting too much selenium are a metallic taste and a garlic odor in your breath. If this condition becomes chronic, selenosis, or selenium toxicity, may manifest itself through hair and nail loss, lesions, rashes, fatigue, and nervous system abnormalities, among other symptoms. In 2008, there was a dietary supplement which contained 200 times the labelled amount of selenium, causing over 200 people to suffer from acute selenium toxicity, which can have drastic effects including kidney failure, heart failure, tremors, myocardial infraction, and can even be fatal in rare cases. If you have any questions about whether you need more selenium and how to get it, you should consult a doctor to find a safe way of doing so.
Niacin, also known as vitamin B3, is sometimes taken as a means of lowering cholesterol. You can usually obtain the B3 that you need from food without the risk of overdosing. But if you do take supplements, there are several risks associated with taking in too much. Symptoms of overdose include flushing and dizziness, rapid heartrate, stomach problems, itching, and gout. In severe cases, high amounts of niacin have been associated with liver damage and stroke. Regular high doses of niacin (3 grams per day or more) should only be taken under professional medical supervision. If you are trying to lower your cholesterol on your own, there are safer ways to do so. Nowadays, many doctors will only prescribe niacin for this purpose if the patient in question is unable to take statin drugs, which have their own set of risks associated with them.