The body requires certain levels of vitamins and minerals to function properly. For each of these nutrients, a recommended daily allowance (RDA) has been established that indicates how much is needed for optimal health. These RDA’s are often used as guidelines by healthy adults to help monitor their nutrient intake. Generally, these nutrients are obtained from the diet, and can supported with nutritional supplements.
Is taking more than the RDA dangerous?
The level of nutrients the body requires can differ depending on age, gender and general health conditions. This means that many people actually require more than the current RDA of certain vitamins and minerals.
However, too much of anything can have negative consequences for our health, so experts have also established a safe upper limit (SUL’s) for each nutrient. These indicate the highest intake of vitamins and minerals which has shown no adverse effects.
Although you can take too many vitamins and minerals, the likelihood is small as it would require consuming regular mega-doses of a particular nutrient. To avoid this, you simply need to be aware of what you are consuming.
When taking a simple multivitamin you do not need to worry. If you follow the instructions on the label then there is very little risk of taking too much of a particular nutrient. Most multivitamins contain the recommended daily allowances and offer a wide margin for safety. Therefore, even when taking multivitamins alongside fortified foods, you will not be consuming unsafe levels.
If, in addition to a multivitamin, you take individual vitamin and mineral supplements, it can be slightly trickier to keep track of exactly how much you are consuming. Talk to your pharmacist or doctor to check that it is safe to do so, as every individual’s health is different. Certain nutrients, in particular fat-soluble vitamins, can have negative effects when taken in very high doses over a long period of time.
What is the difference between fat-soluble and water-soluble nutrients?
The main differences between fat-soluble and water-soluble nutrients are how they are dissolved and stored in the body:
Fat-soluble nutrients – these are stored in the body’s fatty tissue and liver, and are used by the body when required. If you consume more than the SUL on a daily basis, these fat-soluble nutrients can accumulate to dangerous levels. Over time this could lead to hypervitaminosis; where there is an excess of vitamins in the body.
Fat-soluble nutrients include… Vitamin A, Vitamin D, Vitamin E, Vitamin K, Magnesium, Iron, Calcium, Vitamin D.Water-soluble nutrients – these dissolve in water and are not stored in the body, therefore the body requires a daily supply of these nutrients from food and supplements. When you take more than the body requires, the body will take what it needs and excrete the remaining nutrients in urine. This means that mega-doses of water soluble nutrients, whilst relatively harmless, can become slightly pointless. You can improve the absorption rate of such nutrients by splitting the daily intake into smaller doses over the course of a day.
Water-soluble nutrients include… Vitamin C, Vitamin B12, Vitamin B6, Niacin, Riboflavin, Pantothenic Acid, Biotin, Folic Acid.
Vitamins and minerals to be aware of…
When taking supplements it is important to read and follow the guidelines on the label. If you are combining different supplements, consider the levels provided in each. Do not exceed the SUL of a particular nutrient unless advised to do so by a doctor. If you are unsure, talk to your doctor before taking a supplement.