Is It Possible To Take Too Many Vitamins
Celebrity chef Giada De Laurentiis says she takes 20 pills a day. Here’s why that may not be such a good ideafor your wallet or your health.
In an ideal world, wed all eat a perfectly balanced diet every day, getting 100% of the vitamins and minerals we need from fresh, tasty, and home-cooked foods. In real life, however, that rarely happens. Thats where supplements come intheoretically, at least.
For decades, we were taught that vitamins and minerals in pill form could help make up for deficiencies in the typical American diet, or provide health and energy boosts that food alone couldnt. In recent years, however, many scientists have changed their tunes, as study after study shows no evidence that most popular supplements have any real health benefits.
That hasnt stopped the industry from booming, however. Americans spend more than $30 billion a year on supplements, and more than half of adults have taken a supplement in the past 30 days, according to a 2016 study in JAMA. Many of them regularly take more than one, and some go to extremes: Celebrity chef Giada De Laurentiis recently told The Cut that she takes 20 pills a day on the advice of her acupuncturist10 in the morning and 10 in the evening.
But will all those supplements actually do you any good? And more importantly, is it possible to take too many vitamins? We posed those questions to health and nutrition experts, and dug into the latest research. Heres what we learned.
The Latest Science On Supplements
Scientists know that people who eat lots of vitamin- and mineral-rich foods tend to live longer and healthier lives. But when those nutrients are served up in pill form, its still unclear whether they have the same effect. For example, a major 2015 study found that taking dietary supplements does not appear to reduce the risk of cancer.
Several studies, including one published last month in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology, have also found that regular supplement use has no net effect on heart health or risk of early death.
We found a surprising neutrality of effects, lead author David Jenkins, MD, professor of medicine and nutritional sciences at the University of Toronto, told Health. In other words, it didnt seem to do anything. Their findings were true for multivitamins as well as for vitamin C, vitamin D, and calcium supplementsall nutrients that have been touted for heart health in the past.
In light of these and other studies, most experts now say that dietary supplements arent all they were once made out to be. For the average healthy person, you probably dont need a multivitamin, multimineral supplement, says Beth Kitchin, PhD, assistant professor of nutrition studies at the University of Alabama at Birmingham. And you certainly dont need a lot of additional supplements on top of that.
How Does Vitamin B12 Deficiency Cause Harm To Seniors
The most common health issues in seniors related to low vitamin B12 levels are:
- AnemiaThis means a persons red blood cell count is low. Red blood cells carry oxygen in the blood, so anemia can cause fatigue or shortness of breath. The breakdown of faulty red blood cells can also cause jaundice, which is yellowing of the skin.
- NeuropathyThis condition occurs when nerves throughout the body arent working well. It can cause a variety of symptoms, including tingling, numbness, burning, poor balance, and trouble walking.
- Cognitive impairmentDamaged nerve cells in the brain can result in memory problems, irritability, and even dementia.
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When To Take Vitamin B12
Here’s the TL DR on vitamin timing: while there is no official medical advice dictating that you should take vitamin supplements at a specific time of day to improve their efficiency, there is quite a lot of research showing that avoiding some vitamin supplements at particular times can improve absorption, or that taking some vitamins alongside food can reduce the risk of adverse side effects.
The specific advice on the best time to take your chosen supplements will depend on the type of vitamin you’re dealing with: fat-soluble or water-soluble.
In the case of water-soluble vitamins like B12, vitamin C, folic acid, and other B vitamins, some medically reviewed literature points to early morning as the optimal time to take them as they can be taken on an empty stomach, but more peer-reviewed research is needed to confirm this claim. What has been proven, however, is that the vitamin B complex can help reduce stress, so if you’re looking to start the day in the best mood, taking these supplements early in the morning before any meal is the way to go!
On top of that, it’s important to know that the majority of water-soluble nutrients cannot be stored by our body for later use, meaning that our system will only be able to absorb so much in a given period. The optimal course of action is to consume exactly what you need upon waking up, forget about it, and go on with your day knowing your nutrient requirements are all taken care of.
What Form B12 Should I Take
- Personally, I dont really advise any particular form. You can take cyanocobalamin or methylcobalamin. Both have been shown to increase B12 levels. If any readers have seen primary research that suggests a different interpretation, please let me know.
- If you are concerned with deficiency or maximizing absorption, chewable or dissolvable tablets are much better absorbed. As discussed in my smoothie article that generated lots of lively debate, very important digestion starts in the mouth. This is another example.
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What Does The Department Of Health And Social Care Advise
You should be able to get the amount of niacin you need by eating a varied and balanced diet.
If you take niacin supplements, do not take too much as this might be harmful.
Taking 17mg or less of nicotinic acid supplements a day, or 500mg or less of nicotinamide supplements a day, is unlikely to cause any harm.
Risks Of Too Much B12
As a water-soluble nutrient, excess B12 isn’t stored in the body. It must be replaced through food or supplements each day to keep blood levels at a normal level. Because blood levels can’t build up, there’s low risk of toxicity. For this reason, the National Academy of Medicine did not establish an upper limit for B12, noting that no negative effects are associated with excess B12 from both food and supplements in healthy adults.
However, a few studies suggest B12 alone or in combination with other B vitamins may have negative consequences for special populations. A 2010 study in JAMA found that doses of 1 mg B12 per day, in combination with vitamin B6 and folic acid, for six years in patients with diabetic neuropathy increased the risk of vascular events, including heart attack and stroke.
A study published in 2018 in Paediatric and Perinatal Epidemiology showed that very high maternal blood levels of B12 at birth increased the risk of autism spectrum disorder. Another study in 2017 in Journal of Clinical Oncology reported that long-term use of high-dose B12 and B6 was associated with a 30- to 40-percent increase in lung cancer risk in men.
Excess B12 may also affect the skin, causing acne and rosacea, according to a 2015 review in the American Journal of Clinical Dermatology.
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Should You Take Vitamins
Before you start a daily vitamin habit, Dr. Perez-Gallardo emphasizes that not everyone needs them. If you eat a nutritious, balanced diet, you do not need these supplements. The best source of vitamins and minerals is a plate that is one-quarter fruits, one-quarter vegetables, one-quarter protein, such as fish and poultry, and the other quarter grains.
If you cant eat this way at least one meal a day, you may benefit from taking vitamins. Doctors may also recommend taking vitamins if you:
Folate And Folic Acid
Folate is a B vitamin found in many foods. The manmade form of folate is called folic acid.
Folate is also known as folacin and vitamin B9.
- the body form healthy red blood cells
- reduce the risk of birth defects called neural tube defects, such as spina bifida, in unborn babies
A lack of folate could lead to folate deficiency anaemia.
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How Much Vitamin B12 Do I Need
Adults need about 1.5 micrograms a day of vitamin B12.
If you eat meat, fish or dairy foods, you should be able to get enough vitamin B12 from your diet.
But as vitamin B12 is not found naturally in foods such as fruit, vegetables and grains, vegans may not get enough of it.
Read about the vegan diet for nutrition information and advice.
Tolerable Upper Intake Level
The tolerable upper intake level, or UL, of a nutrient is the maximum amount that one can consume daily without likely experiencing serious side effects. The Food and Nutrition Board has not set a UL for vitamin B-12 for adults since there are no known side effects associated with taking more than the recommended daily allowance. However, there are no scientific studies available to definitively prove that taking as much as 1,000 micrograms of vitamin B-12 regularly is either useful or safe. In addition, the body may not be even capable of absorbing such high oral dosages of the vitamin, according to the Linus Pauling Institute.
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How Do B12 Shots Even Work
You need to go to a doctor to get a prescription for B12 injections. Typically, a healthcare professional will inject them for you, but you can also sometimes do them at home. Talk with a pro to figure out whats right for you.
B12 shots are made from hydroxocobalamin or cyanocobalamin, manufactured forms of vitamin B12. Theyre intramuscular injections, which means theyre injected into the muscles typically in your arm or thigh.
With the shot, the B12 is absorbed rapidly thanks to the blood supply in the muscle and you should experience benefits right away. Within a couple of days, you might start to see your symptoms improve and feel better.
But B12 injections arent just a one-and-done thing. Youll usually start getting injections at least a few times a week. Then, your dose may change based on your docs orders and how you respond to treatment. As your symptoms improve, you might only need them every couple of months.
What Is B12 Exactly
Vitamin B12 is a water-soluble micronutrient that’s found naturally in many animal foods that you eat, nutritionist Keri Gans, author of The Small Change Diet, tells Allure. There are actually several forms of B12, but all of them contain the mineral cobalt, per the National Institutes of Health .
As New York City-based nutritionist Gina Keatley tells Allure, the vitamin is involved in metabolism with every cell of your body and has a big impact on DNA synthesis. According to nutritionist Beth Warren, founder of Beth Warren Nutrition and author of Living a Real Life with Real Food, B12 also helps create red blood cells. Keatley adds that since we don’t produce B12 on our own, we have to get it from our diets it’s produced by bacteria in the gut and when we consume certain animal foods, we get the B12 produced by the gut bacteria of those animals.
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B12 For Improved Energy
Though vitamin B12 is commonly taken to increase energy levels, evidence showing that B12 supplements improve energy levels in people without a deficiency is lacking.
However, B12 supplements have been found to improve energy levels in those who are deficient in this nutrient .
One review recommended that those with vitamin B12 deficiency take 1 mg of vitamin B12 daily for a month, followed by a maintenance dose of 125250 mcg per day .
People who have issues absorbing vitamin B12, such as those with Crohns disease or other gastrointestinal issues, may benefit from B12 injections, which bypass the need for absorption by the digestive tract .
Who Should Be Checked For Vitamin B12 Deficiency
An older person should probably be checked for Vitamin B12 deficiency if he or she is experiencing any of the health problems that can be caused by low levels of this vitamin.
I especially recommend checking vitamin B12 levels if youre concerned about memory, brain function, neuropathy, walking, or anemia.
To make sure you arent missing a mild vitamin B12 deficiency, you can also proactively check for low vitamin B12 levels if you or your older relative is suffering from any of the common risk factors associated with this condition.
For instance, you can request a vitamin B12 check if youre vegetarian, or if youve suffered from problems related to the stomach, pancreas, or intestine. Its also reasonable to check the level if youve been on medication to reduce stomach acid for a long time.
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Staying Healthy As The Years Go By
As we get older, we have to get more creative and involved in staying healthy. Planning regular visits to the doctor and getting blood tests can help us stay on top of vitamin deficiencies and other issues that may cause health problems. Fortunately, if you have a B12 deficiency, its relatively easy to get a diagnosis and start a treatment plan.
For other ways to stay healthy, Snug has you covered. Visit our blog for more information on how to stay active, including tips for yoga, tai chi, core exercises, and balance exercises for seniors. Youll find advice ranging from the best vitamins for seniors to tips on recovering from surgeries such as hip replacements and bunion surgery.
We also make it easy for you to stay connected in an increasingly digital world. Discover how to stay in touch with loved ones with the best cell phones for seniors, and learn how to stay connected with online forums. The Snug app is also a free and friendly way to get daily check-ins that can give you peace of mind and freedom. The app will check in with you each day. If somethings amiss, itll notify your emergency contacts.
When Is The Best Time To Take Multivitamins
Multivitamins can be trickier: They often contain both water- and fat-soluble vitamins. The best time to take a multivitamin is with food so any fat can help with absorption. You can also drink a water-based beverage to wash it all down, notes Dr. Perez-Gallardo. But the drawback is that your body wont absorb the water-soluble vitamins as well as fat-soluble ones.
The reverse is true when you take a multivitamin on an empty stomach with water your body cant properly absorb the fat-soluble vitamins. You could also end up with an upset stomach. So for full absorption, Dr. Perez-Gallardo recommends taking water- and fat-soluble vitamins separately.
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What Does Vitamin B12 Do
Vitamin B12, or cobalamin has many crucial roles. It works to maintain nerve cells, keep your brain healthy and is also involved in energy production. It is key in red blood cell formation, blood function and the creation of DNA, too. Plus, it prevents a serious type of anaemia called megoblastic anaemia.
Recommended Vitamin B12 Dosage For Seniors
The proper vitamin B12 dosage for seniors depends on if they have underlying health conditions and how severe their deficiency is. In some cases, doctors may recommend high doses more than 1,000 micrograms per day. A recent study found that for seniors, a daily dose of 500 micrograms was efficient in reversing the signs of B12 deficiency.
In general, experts recommend 2.5 micrograms of vitamin B12 per day for people over the age of 14. You can get these amounts from taking dietary supplements like multivitamins, B12 supplementation including sublingual tablets, or by eating certain foods rich in vitamin B12.
There is no one recommended vitamin B12 dosage for seniors. Rather, the right daily intake will largely depend on your specific situation. Make an appointment to talk with your doctor about the best treatment plan for you.
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S For The Analysis Of Vitamin B12 In Food
Several methods have been used to determine the vitamin B12 content in foods including microbiological assays, chemiluminescence assays, polarographic, spectrophotometric and high-performance liquid chromatography processes. The microbiological assay has been the most commonly used assay technique for foods, utilizing certain vitamin B12requiring microorganisms, such as Lactobacillus delbrueckii subsp.lactis ATCC7830. However, it is no longer the reference method due to the high measurement uncertainty of vitamin B12. Furthermore, this assay requires overnight incubation and may give false results if any inactive vitamin B12 analogues are present in the foods. Currently, radioisotope dilution assay with labelled vitamin B12 and hog IF have been used to determine vitamin B12 content in food. Previous reports have suggested that the RIDA method is able to detect higher concentrations of vitamin B12 in foods compared to the microbiological assay method.
Should I Get Blood Levels Checked
- For exclusively plant-based eaters, I suggest getting your B12 level checked every few years, particularly if you arent great about taking a supplement. I also suggest checking your methylmalonic acid level, which is more specific for testing if you have enough active B12. Both are simple blood tests. This, like many other very specific suggestions in this article, are simply my interpretation of the information Ive seen. There is no large database of studies, for example, that compares checking B12 yearly versus checking every 5 years. So this is just my best guess.
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