When it comes to vitamins, can there be too much of a good thing?
Depends upon our needs and what vitamins we’re taking, says Tim Petritis, a member of the marketing and education team at Baums Natural Foods with locations in Munster, Merrillville and St. John.
“We have two certified nutritionists at the store that can answer questions about vitamins,” he says. “Much of what we sell are formulas made by companies who have doctors and research scientists on staff who specialize exclusively in nutrition.”
Petritis emphasizes knowing what you’re taking because more isn’t always necessarily better.
“People will come in and say I’m taking this and this vitamin supplement and I’ll ask them why they’re taking them and they don’t really know,” says Kim Kramer, Kim Kramer, RDN, LDN, Ingalls Wellness Dietitian, Kids Eat Right Crew Illinois Representative and the Illinois Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics Media Spokesperson.
“Americans tend to believe that more is better and that is definitely not the mentality to have when taking vitamins,” says Lori Granich, RD, a clinical dietitian at the Midwest Bariatric Institute in Dyer. “Some vitamins are merely excreted when the dosage is more than the body can store, but others can build up and cause toxicity.”
Large doses of supplements can also affect absorption or the body’s use of other nutrients says Cathie Claysen MS, RD, LD, School of Nursing, College of Health and Human Services at Indiana University Northwest.
“They should be thought of as supplemental and not substitutes for a healthy diet,” she says.
“When vitamins provide very high dosages, there can be serious side effects,” says Granich. “Too much Vitamin A, for example, can cause liver problems and osteoporosis. Depending on the vitamin, high dosages can cause anything from fatigue to kidney problems."
According to Claysen, large doses of calcium or magnesium from supplements can decrease iron absorption and zinc supplements can decrease calcium absorption.
“Interference with vitamin absorption from foods has also been documented,” she says.
“If people are eating healthy natural food, they should be getting the nutrients that they need,” says Kramer. “That would include whole grains which help move the food through the body to help prevent colorectal cancer as well as two and a half cups of vegetables and two cups of fruit a day. It’s also important to limit the consumption of processed meats, alcoholic beverages and sugar and to maintain a healthy weight for cancer protection.”
Kramer recommends eating three meals a day and not go four to five hours without eating anything.
“We absorb nutrients best from a variety of nutrient dense foods like fruits, vegetables, legumes, low fat dairy and whole grains,” says Claysen.
But eating well isn’t always possible with our hectic lifestyles, says Petritis.
“Unfortunately even if we ate a perfect diet, the soil is depleted and to extend the shelf life of foods, we would come up short,” he says.
“Dietary supplements can include vitamins, minerals, and even enzymes and are intended to help people reach their dietary needs,” says Granich. “The supplement industry has really skyrocketed...The biggest thing to remember is that supplements are not regulated in the same way our food is by the Food and Drug Administration."
There are supplements and there are supplements, says Petritis.
“People need to read the labels and see if there artificial colors and fillers like talc which have been known to cause health problems,” he says. “Often people may think they are getting a bargain on drugstore vitamins but what they are getting are fillers, binders, low grade fish oils and synthetic nutrients. Many products are designed to sell, not work.”