What Happens If You Take Too Much Vitamins?

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What happens if you overdose on vitamins?

 What happens if you overdose on vitamins?

When we think of vitamins, our main concern is usually deficiency. We're constantly warned about the dangers and symptoms of not getting enough of the nutrients we need to thrive and stay healthy. But what happens if you overdose on vitamins?

It's a scenario we rarely think about, but it's a very real possibility. If you take a daily multivitamin along with high-strength boosters of certain supplements – such as a vitamin D spray – and eat a nutritious balanced diet rich in fortified foods, you may be overdoing it on vitamins without realizing it.

Unfortunately, taking too many vitamins and minerals can be just as harmful as not enough. Because the effects can be so subtle, you might not even realize you're in danger.

What happens if you take too many vitamins?

Contrary to popular belief, it is nearly impossible to consume an excessive amount of vitamins from unfortified foods alone. For example, eating a lot of bananas is said to be bad for your health because the fruit is high in potassium.

More than seven bananas would be required to reach the recommended daily target of 3,500mg per day – and more than 42 bananas in a very short period of time to become ill from a dietary overdose of the mineral.

Vitamins of various types

All vitamins are not processed the same way. Some are water-soluble, which means they are quickly absorbed by your body and excreted through your urine rather than being stored in tissues. As a result, even in large quantities, they are less dangerous. Among the water-soluble vitamins are:

  • C vitamin
  • B1 vitamin (thiamine)
  • B2 vitamin (riboflavin)
  • B3 vitamin (niacin)
  • B5 vitamin (pantothenic acid)
  • B6 vitamin (pyridoxine)
  • B7 vitamin (biotin)
  • B9 vitamin (folate)
  • B12 vitamin (cobalamin)

However, this does not imply that they are safe to consume in unlimited quantities. High levels of niacin (vitamin B3), for example, can cause red skin flushes in some people, while too much vitamin B6 can cause numbness in the arms and legs.

Fat-soluble vitamins, on the other hand, do not dissolve in water and are easily stored in your body. Because your body stores these vitamins in your blood and fat tissues, it is easier for dangerous amounts to accumulate, potentially leading to hypervitaminosis (vitamin poisoning). The four fat-soluble vitamins are as follows:

Vitamin A, Vitamin D, Vitamin E, and Vitamin K are all essential nutrients.

There is a Tolerable Upper Intake Level (UL) that indicates the maximum dose of a nutrient that is unlikely to cause harm, in addition to the Recommended Dietary Allowance (RDA), which indicates how much of a specific nutrient your body needs on a daily basis. Not all vitamins require these; for example, vitamin K has no detectable toxicity even at high doses, so an upper limit has not been established.

However, this is not to say that vitamins in this category are guaranteed to be completely safe in high doses. They may interact with certain medications or have an unfavorable effect in people with pre-existing health conditions. As a result, unless otherwise advised by your healthcare practitioner, it's best to stick to the general recommendations.

The dangers of taking too many vitamins

Certain water-soluble vitamins, like vitamin K, appear to be relatively harmless at high doses and, as such, have no set upper limit. These include thiamine (vitamin B1), riboflavin (vitamin B2), pantothenic acid (vitamin B5), biotin (vitamin B7), and vitamin B12 (cobalamin) (cobalamin).

The following vitamins, on the other hand, have upper limits because of their potential to cause harm at high doses, also known as megadoses. This can be accomplished through an acute toxic dose – a very high amount taken in a single dose – or a chronic toxic dose – a high amount taken consistently over a long period of time:

A vitamin

Vitamin A toxicity occurs when your body has an excess of vitamin A. Nausea, vomiting, loss of appetite, abdominal pain, dizziness, irritability, drowsiness, headache, skin rash, increased intracranial pressure, coma, and even death are possible symptoms. Adults should not exceed 3,000 mcg per day.

B3 vitamin (niacin)

Severe skin flushing, dizziness, irregular heartbeat, itching, nausea, vomiting, stomach pain, abdominal pain, gout, diarrhoea, loss of vision, high blood sugar, and liver damage are common symptoms of vitamin B3 overdose. The daily maximum for adults is 35 mg.

B6 vitamin (pyridoxine)

Hyperaesthesia, paraesthesia, muscle weakness, numbness, loss of proprioception, skin lesions, sensitivity to light, nausea, and heartburn are all symptoms of vitamin B6 toxicity. The daily maximum for adults is 100 mg.

B9 vitamin (folate)

Abdominal cramps, sleep disorders, irritability, digestive issues, confusion, nausea, behavior changes, skin reactions, seizures, and other side effects may result from taking too much vitamin B9. High folic acid intakes may also mask a vitamin B12 deficiency. Adults should not exceed 1,000 mcg per day.

C vitamin

Excessive vitamin C consumption can cause nausea, diarrhea, and stomach cramps, as well as increase the risk of developing kidney stones. High levels can be dangerous for people with genetic conditions that cause an excess of iron in the body, as well as people with diabetes. Adults should not exceed 2,000 mg per day.

D-calcium palmitate

The main effect of vitamin D toxicity is an increase in calcium levels in the blood (hypercalcemia), which can cause nausea, vomiting, weakness, and potentially bone pain and kidney problems such as calcium stones. Weight loss, appetite loss, and irregular heartbeat are all possible symptoms. Adults should not exceed 100 mcg per day.


Because vitamin E is an anticoagulant, consuming too much of it can cause blood thinning, which can lead to fatal bleeding, or interfere with blood clotting. It's also been linked to a higher risk of hemorrhagic stroke. The daily maximum for adults is 1,100 mg.

Aside from potential health risks, supplements containing high doses of water-soluble vitamins are likely to be a waste of money because any excess will be flushed down the toilet.

Is it possible to overdose on vitamins?

There have been reported cases of vitamin toxicity-related deaths, though they are extremely rare. Megadoses of certain vitamins have typically resulted in serious complications such as organ damage and failure. These lethal effects are linked to extremely high consumption.

For example, the recommended daily amount of vitamin A for adults is 900 mcg for men and 700 mcg for women. Hypervitaminosis A can occur as a result of taking a large dose of vitamin A – 200 mg or more – or by taking more than 10 times the recommended daily intake on a regular basis.

'Although most vitamins are well tolerated, any type of medication can cause side effects,' says Dr Lee. 'Always consult your healthcare provider before starting any new tablets, including vitamin supplements, if you have chronic medical conditions or take any other regular medication. If you experience any symptoms of an acute allergic reaction after taking a vitamin tablet, seek immediate medical attention.'

How to Safely Take Vitamins

A varied and balanced diet is the best way for most of us to get enough vitamins. Certain groups, however, are at a higher risk of deficiencies than the general population and are advised to take supplements. These are some examples:

  • Folic acid is recommended for women who are trying to conceive or are in the first 12 weeks of pregnancy.
  • The current recommendation is that all adults in the United Kingdom take a vitamin D supplement.
  • Vitamin A, C, and D supplements should be given to children aged six months to five years.
  • Vegans and vegetarians should supplement with vitamin B12 and omega-3 fatty acids.

Some nutritionists believe that taking a multivitamin is unnecessary if you eat a healthy diet, but certain vitamins may be beneficial in certain situations.' Dr. Lee says 'A good example is the current recommendation to take extra vitamin D during the current pandemic.'

It's important to note that some vitamins should be taken together, while others should be taken separately, she adds. 'For example, calcium and vitamin D are taken together, but calcium inhibits iron absorption from the gut, so calcium and iron should be taken separately.'

If you decide to take a vitamin supplement, make sure it contains no more than the daily recommended amount. There is no need to be concerned about vitamin overdose if you take a multivitamin, as they are designed for safe consumption even when combined with fortified foods. Vitamin supplements should never be used in place of a well-balanced diet.

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