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The Dangers of Vitamin Supplements

Millions and millions of people spend billions and billions of dollars on vitamin supplements every year. In 2004, 19.6 billion dollars was spent on this phenomenon. Many people think they are preventing heart disease or cancer by popping every vitamin supplement they can get their hands on.

But researchers say that vitamin supplements cannot correct for a poor diet, that multivitamins have not been shown to prevent any disease and that it is easy to reach high enough doses of certain vitamins and minerals to actually increase the risk of disease.

Generally, consuming too many water-soluble vitamins (vitamin C and all the B vitamins) is not fatal as the body is capable of excreting them. There have, however, been adverse reactions to excessive doses of vitamin B6 (pyridoxine) and vitamin C. An overdose of vitamin B6 can cause nerve damage, while too much vitamin C in your body can cause diarrhea, nausea, abdominal pain and kidney stones.

It is a serious case, though, if fat-soluble vitamins are taken in excessive doses. Fat-soluble vitamins, consisting of vitamin A, D, E and K, store inside the fat tissues in your body and liver from a few days to six months until the body needs them.

Hypervitaminosis A refers to the effects of excessive vitamin A (specifically retinoid) intake. Signs of acute toxicity include nausea and vomiting, headache, dizziness, blurred vision, and loss of muscular coordination. Possible complications include excessively high calcium levels, kidney damage due to high calcium, liver damage, osteoporosis and prostate cancer.

Symptoms of vitamin D poisoning include dehydration, vomiting, decreased appetite (anorexia), irritability, constipation, and fatigue. Possible complications include dehydration, hypercalcemia, kidney damage and kidney stones.

An overdose of vitamin E can also cause stomach upsets, kidney stones and abdominal pain.

Before you start taking vitamin supplements, go to a dietician or GP to see if you are deficient in any vitamins or minerals.

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