They seem to be the solution to all health problems. If you’re
tired, probably a friend will tell you to take a vitamin
supplement. If you’re feeling down, the solution is taking
vitamins. But, are they really safe?
Vitamins are essential nutrients that contribute to a healthy life, because they participate in several biological processes such as growth, digestion, and the nervous system. Many foods are excellent sources of vitamins, but there are also supplements that a doctor can prescribe in special cases, like pregnancy or vegetarianism.
There are 13 vitamins that the human body needs: vitamins A, C, D, E, K, and B complex (thiamin, riboflavin, niacin, vitamin 5 or pantothenic acid, biotin or vitamin H, vitamin B-6, vitamin B-12, and folic acid).
Should You Take a Supplement or Not
A balanced diet provides the vitamins you need for a healthy life. If the doctor considers you’re lacking an important nutrient, he/she may indicate the use of a vitamin supplement or emphasize the intake of certain foods.
The only risk is excessive consumption of vitamin supplements, especially fat-soluble vitamins which are stored in the liver. According to the American Academy of Family Physicians (AAFP), side effects are:
• Fat-Soluble Vitamins:
o Excess vitamin A may cause nausea, vomiting, headache, dizziness, blurred vision, numbness, birth defects, liver problems and possible risk of osteoporosis. Adverse effects may be aggravated by alcohol abuse, liver problems, high cholesterol or protein deficiency.
o Excess vitamin D may cause nausea, vomiting, poor appetite, constipation, weakness, weight loss, confusion, tachycardia, and abnormal deposits of calcium and phosphate in white tissue.
o People taking anticoagulants should ask their doctor before taking vitamin E or vitamin K supplements.
• Water-Soluble Vitamins:
o Vitamin B-3 can cause flushing, rosacea, and stomach pain. Excess vitamin B-6 may cause damage to the nerves of the extremities.
o Taking too much vitamin C can cause stomach pain, kidney stones and increased iron absorption.
o In adults, excess of folic acid can cause damage to the nervous system.
Now that you’re well-informed, next time someone tells you to take a vitamin supplement, make sure to first consult your doctor.
Source: FDA US Food and Drug Administration
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