High Contrast

Medicine or Malarkey: Can Vitamins Ever Have Negative Effects on Your Health?

Popular media has long credited vitamin C with a stronger immune system– and vitamin D for stronger bones. While these may be true benefits, it’s also important to ask: how much is too much, and are all vitamins good for you? Given all the noise coming from a multitude of news sources, it can be difficult to figure out what is actually needed for optimum health. When it comes vitamins, can you have “too much” of a good thing?

What Do the Studies Say?

A recent review of the existing data found that the most common vitamin supplements consumed — vitamin D, multivitamins, vitamin C and calcium — had no discernible risk or advantage when it came to the prevention of conditions such as heart attack, premature death, cardiovascular disease or stroke. This finding was published in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology in May 2018.

According to findings uncovered by the same study, only two supplements — folic acid and B-vitamins with folic acid — might help reduce stroke and cardiovascular disease.

Could Taking Vitamins Cause You Harm?

For those who take the prescribed amount of vitamins according to their doctor’s instructions or the labels on their favorite brand, the above question could be puzzling. How could it be harmful to take vitamins that your body uses, and requires, every day?

There are a few potential instances in which people might face a harmful situation. Taking more than the recommended amount is the first concern. Thanks to popular drinks and foods infused with high levels of vitamin C, it’s possible to greatly exceed the recommended daily dose without realizing it. For example, consuming too much vitamin C can cause digestive distress.

In other instances, a person might mix many supplements together in an effort to ensure any deficiencies are covered, or might decide to take supplements for a health condition instead of the medications that a doctor prescribed. Vitamin supplements can also interact with prescription drugs, which is why it’s always recommended that you let your doctor know when you decide to take over-the-counter supplements at home. It’s important to keep tabs on interactions of any supplements and prescription medication to ensure your health is not at risk.

Supplements and Side Effects

There are numerous ways that taking supplements could cause side effects. For example, vitamins E and C — often taken because of their antioxidant properties — could wreak havoc on chemotherapy treatments because they can reduce the effectiveness of these treatments.

People taking blood thinners such as Coumadin and vitamin K could find that their prescribed medication isn’t able to prevent the clotting of blood as intended. Additionally, there are many types of drugs, such as birth control pills and antidepressants, which the body breaks down at an increased rate when St. John’s wort is also taken. This can influence the medication’s effectiveness.

The above findings emphasize the need for patients to tell their doctor about every supplement and medication — prescribed or not — they are currently taking. Only with this shared information will your doctor be able to provide you with the optimal recommendations for everyday health.