Vitamins and minerals are essential to healthy living. Experts believe many illnesses are caused by a poor diet and lack of exercise. Good nutrition is vital to the cells of our body and the optimal function of our bodily systems. A healthy diet requires the right balance of proteins, carbohydrates, fats, vitamins and minerals. Many nutritional supplements can be quite high in vitamins and minerals. Which begs the question…
Can too much of a good thing be a bad thing? Before answering this question, lets take a closer look at vitamins and minerals. Why are they important in our diet? And, is it possible to get too many vitamins and minerals?
What are the differences between vitamins and minerals?
Vitamins are organic and can be broken down into smaller parts. They are either fat or water soluble. Fat soluble vitamins are stored in the body. Water soluble vitamins remain in the body for only a short time. They are excreted through bodily fluids (1).
Minerals are inorganic, and cannot be broken down into smaller chemical units. They are classified as either electrolytes or trace minerals.
What are Vitamins?
Vitamins are organic and assist in various biochemical bodily reactions. Some vitamins are fat soluble, and some are water soluble. Fat soluble vitamins must be taken with dietary fat and are stored in fat cells or the liver. Fat soluble vitamins include: vitamin A, D, E, and K (2).
Water soluble vitamins are transported from the stomach to other parts of the body, primarily in blood plasma. They are excreted mainly thru urine. Water soluble vitamins include: vitamin C, and the B vitamins (thiamine, riboflavin, niacin, pantothenic acid, pyrodoxine, biotin, and folic acid). Water soluble vitamins are not stored in the body and require daily intake (2).
Vitamin A is good for our skin and vision. It is found in dairy products. It can also form from beta-carotene found in orange colored plants and leafy greens.
B vitamins include: B1, B2, B3, B5, B6, and B12. These vitamins give us energy and help make cells. B vitamins work synergistically together, and are often taken as a complex. They are in meat, milk, eggs, and certain vegetables, grains, and fruits. Often, cereals we buy are fortified with B vitamins.
Vitamin C helps boost immunity, aids in iron absorption, and is needed for the growth of connective tissue. Many fruits and some vegetables are good sources of vitamin C.
The D vitamin is necessary for healthy bones and teeth. Our bodies produce vitamin D with exposure to sunlight. It is also in dairy, fish, and fortified cereals.
Vitamin E is an important antioxidant. It fights free radicals that can cause cancer and disease in the body. It is found in vegetables, nuts, seeds, poultry, and fish.
The K vitamin is needed for the body to make certain proteins. Further, it is important for the bones, blood, and more. It is in most green leafy vegetables, broccoli, brussels sprouts, turnips, and asparagus.
What are Minerals
Minerals are inorganic and assist in various bodily enzymatic reactions, being especially important to electrolyte balance. Minerals are needed for the growth and maintenance of our cells.
Calcium helps with strong bones and teeth. It is found in dairy products, sardines, spinach, almonds, and soy.
Iron is important to forming blood. Blood delivers oxygen throughout the body. Without oxygen rich blood, we can feel tired. Iron is found in red meat, eggs, fortified cereals, and certain vegetables.
Zinc is an important antioxidant that helps the body heal wounds and boost our immune system. It is found in meat, dairy, grains and seeds.
Potassium is needed for our muscles and heart. It is found in bananas, potatoes, and other fruits and vegetables, as well as certain fortified foods.
Magnesium is important to many bodily functions. A deficiency can lead to tight muscles, low energy, headaches, and more. It is found in cereals, rice, molasses, chocolate, and certain spices.
Sodium occurs naturally in many foods and is important to electrolyte balance. While sodium is important, our bodies need only a small amount, and too much sodium can cause high blood pressure. Most people ingest too much sodium.
Phosphorus is needed to filter waste, maintain good energy, strong bones, and repair cells. Most people get plenty, if not too much phosphorus in their diets. Some medications can cause low phosphorus in the body.
Nutritional needs can vary.
While there are standard charts indicating an average daily need for certain vitamins and minerals, this can vary significantly by individual. Nutritional needs can change based on lifestyle, age, sex, and health concerns. Below is a chart of average daily adult needs. But first, here are some big factors to consider:
Age is an important factor: A child needs a differing intake of vitamins than an adult. An older aged person’s body may be less efficient in nutrient absorption.
Gender affects nutritional needs. For example, a women can become low in iron during menstruation. Pregnant and breastfeeding women may require more nutrients.
Diet is huge. Eating organic fruits and vegetables will be healthier than eating fast and processed foods. This will affect your supplemental need for vitamins and minerals.
Physical activity level cause an increased need.
Health conditions and medications can affect the needs, absorption, and excretion levels of vitamins and minerals.
Recommended daily average (RDA) adult dose (3):
Vitamin A: 800 mcg (1 mg = 1,000 mcg)
B1 vitamin (Thiamin): 1.4 mg
B2 vitamin (Riboflavin): 1.6 mg
B3 vitamin (Niacin): 18 mg
B5 vitamin (Patothenic acid): 6 mg
B6 vitamin (Pyrodoxine): 2 mg
B12 vitamin (Cobalamin): 1 mcg
Biotin: 150 mcg
Folic Acid: 200 mcg; pregnant women: up to 800 mcg
Vitamin C: 60 mg
D Vitamin: 5 mcg
Vitamin E: 10 mg
Calcium: 800 mg
Iodine: 150 mcg
Iron: 14 mg
Magnesium: 300 mg
Sodium: 1600 mg
Zinc: 15 mg
Phosphorus: 800 mg
Potassium: no RDA guideline; 3000 mg recommended
What if I take more than my daily need?
Especially with fat soluble vitamins and minerals, too much can cause issues because excess cannot be excreted easily. Ingesting vitamins or minerals in doses far exceeding the daily recommended amount can be dangerous in some instances. Here is a list of concerns specific to certain vitamins and minerals:
Vitamin A, stored in the liver, is toxic in excess and can cause birth defects (2).
Thiamin intake in large amounts should be avoided with blood or heart conditions (3).
Riboflavin should not be taken in excess for those with cataracts (3).
Niacin in excess can cause liver damage and headaches. Avoid too much with pregnant women, those with diabetes, and those with liver or stomach disorders (3).
Too much vitamin B6 can cause nerve issues (2). Also, avoid excess with Parkinson’s disease (3).
Folic acid in excess can cause toxicity, insomnia, poor zinc absorption, and vitamin B12 deficiency (2). Especially avoid excess with epilepsy (3).
Too much vitamin C can cause kidney stones (2). Mega-doses can have a laxative effect (3).
Excessive vitamin D is dangerous. It can result in severe vomiting, headaches, diarrhea, and depression. Children taking supplements are at highest risk. Only take vitamin D supplements under Doctor supervision (3).
Too much vitamin E can cause hemorrhaging (2). Avoid large doses in those with diabetes or thin blood (3).
High vitamin K can affect blood clotting (2). Large doses can cause liver damage and should only be given under medical supervision (3).
Very high amounts of calcium can cause kidney dysfunction and constipation and affect the absorption of iron and zinc (2).
Iodine in excess is toxic. It can cause skin acne, affect hormones, and more. Only take iodine supplements with medical advice (3).
Excessive iron can cause constipation and digestive complaints. Very high doses can be deadly. Only give children iron supplements with medical advice (3).
Very high amounts of magnesium can be toxic. Especially avoid large amounts with kidney problems (3).
Too much sodium can affect blood pressure, increase fluid retention, and cause a loss of potassium (3).
Excessive zinc may effect blood cell products (3).
How do I avoid ingesting excessive vitamins and minerals?
Optimally, we receive the vitamins and minerals our body needs just by eating a well balanced, healthy diet. Unfortunately, the foods we eat today are often less nutritious than what our bodies need. Not receiving our required essential nutrients can cause health issues.
Thus, nutritional supplementation can be very beneficial. A person should always assess the contents of a supplement before use.
If you are taking multiple supplements…
Read the label of each supplement, and add up how much of each of the vitamins and minerals you are ingesting each day. Plus, consider the nutrition you receive from your daily food diet. Also, be aware of specific vitamin and mineral needs related to your own personal health that may vary from the recommended daily dose.
First, try to eat lots of natural foods to obtain your nutritional needed. Then, dietary supplements can fill in the nutritional gaps in your diet. This can be especially helpful for people who eat poorly, for those who do not eat enough, and for people with certain health conditions.
Always consult your doctor if you have a medical condition. Further, it is important to know, when taking prescription drugs, of possible drug-nutrient interactions that could be dangerous.
By: Kathy Sadowski, MS in Aromatherapy, RA (ARC), Professional NAHA and AIA Member, LMT
Casiday, R., Frey, R., & Mao, K. (2001). Nutrients and Solubility. Department of Chemistry Washington University St. Louis, MO, 63130.
Zelman, K. (2011). Know the Difference Between Fat and Water Soluble Nutrients. Retrieved in March, 2017. Retrieved from www.webmd.com
Vaughan, S. (2017). The Vitamins & Minerals Bible. Bounty Books.