Risk of supplements: A high intake of vitamins could increase the risk of stroke and cancer

Calling it the Wild West would be hyperbolic, but the dietary supplement market isn’t as tightly regulated as the drug market. This makes consumers more vulnerable to being poorly sold. It is important to note that most dietary supplements are safe, but some may present health risks, especially when taken in high doses.

What are food supplements?

The food supplement includes everything from vitamins and minerals to botanicals and biosimilars (such as the so-called “natural male hormone”).

For the most part, however, people use “supplement” to mean a single vitamin or mineral preparation or multivitamin.

The evidence for the benefits of taking dietary supplements is conflicting at best.

However, the evidence linking dietary supplements to health problems is piling up.

READ MORE: Supplements: Expert Warning About Supplement May “Increase Risk of Heart Disease”

Harvard Health provides an overview of studies linking high doses of vitamin supplements to a range of health problems.

The health care body anticipates its assessment by saying, “Most supplements are safe to take, but there are exceptions.”

He says:

  • High doses of beta carotene have been linked to an increased risk of lung cancer in smokers
  • Extra calcium and vitamin D can increase the risk of kidney stones
  • High doses of vitamin E can lead to stroke caused by bleeding in the brain
  • Vitamin K can interfere with the anticoagulant effects of blood thinners
  • Taking high amounts of vitamin B6 for a year or more has been associated with nerve damage that can impair body movement (symptoms often go away after stopping supplements).

It is important to note that supplements can play an important role for some high-risk groups.

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“For example, adults diagnosed with osteoporosis may require more vitamin D and calcium in addition to what they get from their normal diet,” Harvard Health explains.

The health care body adds: “Supplements can also help people with Crohn’s disease or celiac disease, conditions that make it difficult to absorb certain nutrients. People with vitamin B12 deficiency almost always need a supplement.”

What the FDA says

The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) recently released safety guidelines for dietary supplements.

Discourages the following:

  • Combining supplements and using supplements with medicines (both prescription and over-the-counter) can put you in the danger zone Replacing supplements with prescription medicines
  • Taking too many supplements, such as vitamin A, vitamin D, or iron
  • Some supplements can also have side effects before, during and after surgery. So, be sure to tell your doctor, including your pharmacist, about any supplements you are taking.

According to the NHS, most people don’t need to take vitamin supplements and can get all the vitamins and minerals they need by following a healthy, balanced diet.

“Many people choose to take supplements but taking too many or taking them for too long could be harmful,” warns the health organization.

How to get a healthy and balanced diet

A balanced diet means eating a wide variety of foods in the right proportions and consuming the right amount of food and drink to achieve and maintain a healthy body weight.

The Eatwell Guide shows that in order to eat a healthy and balanced diet, people should try to:

  • Eat at least five servings of a variety of fruits and vegetables every day
  • Base your meals on fiber starchy foods such as potatoes, bread, rice, or pasta
  • Have dairy or dairy-based alternatives (such as soy drinks)
  • Eat beans, legumes, fish, eggs, meat, and other proteins
  • Choose unsaturated oils and spreads and eat them in small quantities
  • Drink plenty of fluids (at least six to eight glasses a day).

“If you’re eating foods and drinks that are high in fat, salt, and sugar, take them less often and in small amounts,” says the NHS.

According to the health body, you should try to choose a variety of different foods from the five main food groups to get a wide range of nutrients.

“Most people in the UK eat and drink too many calories, too many saturated fat, sugar and salt and not enough fruits, vegetables, fatty fish or fiber.”

The Eatwell guide does not apply to children under the age of two because they have different nutritional needs.

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