What is hypervitaminosis?
Hypervitaminosis is an excessive accumulation of vitamins in the human body, leading to a gradual toxic damage to organs and tissues. The main reason for hypervitaminosis is, first of all, taking various dietary supplements and multivitamins in tablets - it is almost impossible to get an overdose of vitamins (including fat-soluble vitamin A ) as a result of a normal diet.
Statistics show that more than 80% of cases of hypervitaminosis were diagnosed in children under the age of 6 years (1) - in attempts to increase immunity and improve their health, their parents significantly exceeded the recommended doses of vitamins, or gave the child several similar drugs at once. The problem of hypervitaminosis is compounded by the fact that most vitamins do not have vivid symptoms of an overdose.
Vitamin C Overdose
It is known that the United States practices the treatment of influenza, colds and SARS with huge doses of vitamin C - up to 10-20 grams per day (the method of Nobel Laureate Dr. Pauling (3) ). However, in most countries of the European Union, capsules containing not more than 250 mg of ascorbic acid are permitted. In Russia, both European and American additives are available for sale.
American medicine allows the intake of large doses of vitamin C , since studies reject the myth of its overdose - while European doctors cite the fact that there is no reliable data on the benefits of taking huge doses of vitamin C. Note that the position of the Russian Ministry of Health is close to the European one - for an overdose of vitamin C you will have to eat a pack of dietary supplements, and not just one tablet at all.
Symptoms of Vitamin Overdose
The vast majority of vitamins are water-soluble - in other words, they practically do not accumulate in the body, and any excess of them is excreted in the urine and sweat. A typical example is vitamin C - even with a single use of doses tens of times higher than the norm, an adult is unlikely to feel symptoms of acute overdose.
In the case of children, the symptoms of hypervitaminosis with vitamin C or vitamin B most often resemble the symptoms of a food allergy. Itching, redness on the body appears, digestion is disturbed. An overdose of minerals is much less common, and is relevant primarily for excess and regular consumption of iron and calcium.
Symptoms of an overdose of vitamin C:
- Cutting pains in the stomach
The most dangerous vitamins
Unlike most water-soluble vitamins that practically do not lead to intoxication, four fat-soluble vitamins - vitamins D, E, K and A ("DEKA") - are easily able to accumulate in the tissues of the body, significantly harming health. However, we note once again that it is almost impossible to get an overdose of these vitamins through ordinary food.
Since an overdose of fat-soluble vitamins occurs exclusively with their long-term excessive consumption, the symptoms of hypervitaminosis appear extremely gradually and implicitly. The most typical are chronic headache, sleep disturbances, general weakness, loss of appetite and a gradual decrease in immunity (2) .
How to take multivitamins?
It is necessary to separate the European and American approach to medicine. If in the USA it is customary to drown the disease with drugs, then in Europe they first of all look for the cause of the disease, and then they turn to pills (including vitamins in capsules). In Russia, unfortunately, the practice of self-medication and uncontrolled intake of supplements is extremely widespread.
American doctors recommend taking multivitamin complexes for everyone all the time, and European doctors only in exceptional cases, alternating several weeks of taking synthetic vitamins with 2-3 months without them. Also, European doctors tend to prescribe individual vitamins rather than complex multivitamin complexes.
How to avoid an overdose of vitamins?
Even if you eat oranges daily (a source of vitamin C) and literally drink olive oil (a source of vitamin E), your chance of getting hypervitaminosis will still be minimal. In order to get an overdose of vitamins, they will have to be taken in quantities tens or hundreds of times higher than the recommended daily allowances.
The only way to get such high doses of vitamins is to take several multivitamin complexes at once. In case you regularly take vitamins in tablets or capsules, carefully study the composition (it must be present on the package) and in no case exceed 100% of the daily norm of the vitamin.
Do you really need vitamins?
In conclusion, we note that most people do not need to take multivitamin complexes at all. In Russia, the most typical is a deficiency of vitamin D (especially in the winter season), iodine , magnesium and zinc - and to cover this deficiency it is more reliable to take individual vitamins, rather than a whole bunch in the hope that it will be better.
Remember that there is no evidence that supplementation with vitamins (or fish oil ) in any way improves immunity or health. Vitamins can help only if a person has an acute deficiency - however, it is extremely difficult to say this “by eye”, and a complete clinical blood test is necessary.
Hypervitaminosis, caused by excessive consumption of fat-soluble vitamins, can be observed exclusively in those who constantly take vitamins in tablets. At the same time, science denies the myth that vitamins must be taken “in reserve” or to “enhance immunity” - vitamins are needed only when their body really lacks them.
- Hypovitaminosis C and Vitamin C deficiency, source
- Multiple vitamin overdose, source
- Vitamin C - Linus Pauling Institute, Oregon State University, source