Vitamins are a good thing for us right, but, is it possible to have too much of a good thing? Can I overdose on vitamins? Turns out, yes, you can. In this post I will share the clinical term for a vitamin overdose, the different types, and some of the effects of overdosing.
The clinical term for a vitamin overdose is Hypervitaminosis. The definition of hypervitaminosis is:
"A condition resulting from the ingestion of an excessive amount of a vitamin preparation, symptoms varying according to the particular vitamin involved; serious effects may be caused by overdosage with fat-soluble vitamins, especially A or D, but more rarely with water-soluble vitamins."
Vitamins come in 2 types: fat-soluble and water-soluble. Water soluble vitamins are easily excreted from the body and pose a lesser risk of overdosing. Fat-soluble vitamins, on the other hand, pose a higher risk because they are stored in the body's fat cells for later use. In either case over supplementing can increase your chances of developing symptoms associated with hypervitaminosis.
Do We Need Vitamin Supplements
Vitamin overdose is rarely associated with our diets because we tend not to overdo it on vitamin rich foods. Usually the culprit of this issue is supplements. Technically, a person with a balanced nutritious diet, doesn't need to take any supplements because their diet should provide them with enough micronutrients to keep them healthy. (but how many people eat an adequate diet???)
Supplements play a positive role when a person has specific nutrient deficiencies or is unable to make necessary dietary changes that will allow for them to have regular intake of micronutrients. These types of deficiencies can be made known to you by your doctor administering a blood test. Some health conditions or health events like pregnancy and weight loss can be facilitated with supplement intake but it may require very specific vitamin doses.
Our bodies have a pretty good system for getting rid of unnecessary nutrients and so it is harder to ingest too much of a certain nutrient than it is to take too many pills. (If you eat too much spinach at once, you'll feel it!) This doesn't mean that all supplements are evil and shouldn't be used. It does mean that they should be used with caution. Your number one focus should be to first ensure you are eating a healthy balanced diet that includes plenty of whole foods, fruits, and vegetables. If then, you still need extra supplementation, make sure that:
you're taking the right amounts
don't take them for too long (get re-tested at your next doctor's visit)
focus on taking the vitamins needed for your specific deficiency or symptoms
understand that there isn't much evidence showing that they impact athletic performance above requirement amounts
check the company and makers of the brands you are using for safety and quality
Common Types of Vitamin Overdose
Hypervitaminosis is pretty rare itself especially in developed nations but he most common occurrences correlate with the fat-soluble vitamins which are vitamin A, D, E, and K. The corresponding names of the conditions and the amounts at which they occur are:
Hypervitaminosis E (amount not established)
Hypervitaminosis K (amount not established)
The general symptoms associated with vitamin overdose are
Specific symptoms are associated with each condition.