Supplements seem to have become the cure all for everyone and everything these days. But the fact is that their arbitrary use could actually be harming your health as micro nutrients in macro doses can make you ill.
Large amounts can also interfere with how your medicines work. And cause unnecessary side effects.
For example if you have been popping a multivitamin much too often you could be priming yourself for weight gain as these tablets also have among other vitamins, vitamin B (also known as thiamine), which has been found to open up your appetite leading to excess eating thus weight gain.
Daily requirement of thiamine is only 1.4 mg and most of the multivitamins contain much more than this.
So don’t self diagnose or self medicate, and eat the supplements right (if at all).
Of course anemia is a common problem but that said, anyone on a reasonably healthy diet should not pop dark red pills minus prescription.
Iron overload can can cause stomach upset. It can also interfere with some cholesterol and BP lowering medications, ACE inhibitors, birth control and thyroid replacement hormones.
It is best to take these at least two hours before or two hours after taking other medications.
The best sources of iron are wholegrain cereals, pulses, fish, turnip greens, watermelons, dried dates and black currants. Non vegetarian sources include meat, eggs and liver.
Yes, it’s the stuff holding your skeleton together, but too much can be bad again.
Overly high calcium intake can result in hyperglycemia (elevated levels of calcium in the blood), impaired kidney function, a tendency towards kidney stone formation and decreased absorption of other minerals.
The body can only absorb a limited portion of the ingested calcium at a given time so spread your doses across the day (up to 500 mg each time) along with meals to ensure better absorption. Drink water with it to avoid constipation.
Dairy products, leafy green vegetables, nuts and seeds (almonds, brazils, sesame seeds), tofu, and dried fruit are rich sources of calcium.
Zinc is not a nutrient whose deficiency is very common but an excess can be distinctly unpleasant.
Adverse effects of high zinc intake include nausea, vomiting, loss of appetite, abdominal cramps, diarrhea and headaches. Excess zinc may also decrease magnesium and calcium absorption, reduce the immune system and also reduce the HDL (the good cholesterol).
Take at bedtime and at least 8 hours after any iron supplement.
Foods like liver, seafood, poultry, nuts and seeds, whole grains, tofu and legumes are rich in zinc.
It’s actually not easy to be deficient in vitamin A with a reasonably balanced diet. Plus healthy adults usually have a reserve of vitamin A stored in their livers.
Large amounts of vitamin A may cause hair loss, joint pain, nausea, bone and muscle soreness, dry and flaky skin, rashes, enlarged liver and spleen, and cessation of menstruation.
Vitamin A needs fat in order to be absorbed properly. Taking vitamin A supplements with fatty foods (say, with milk rather than water) helps their absorption.
You can find large amounts of vitamin A in foods like liver, full-fat dairy products, spinach, broccoli, tomato juice, peppers, mango, dried apricots, carrots, sweet potatoes and pumpkin.
Vitamin C is the easiest to get from your diet: all you need to do is eat enough fruits and vegetables (a serving each of five kinds).
It isn’t likely to be directly toxic, but can exacerbate certain health problems. Gout patients could end up having greater problems with uric acid build-up in the presence of excess vitamin C.
Chewable vitamin C tablets can erode tooth enamel if taken on a regular basis.
Vitamin C can also interfere with glucose tests, since these two compounds have similar chemical structures.
Because vitamin C is better absorbed in the presence of flavonoids, many supplement manufacturers also add flavonoids to their formulas.
Rich sources of vitamin C include citrus fruits and juices, kiwi fruit, strawberries, blueberries, tomatoes and peppers.
Yes, mothers and babies (especially unborn ones) should probably have a supplement to be on the safe side, but this is another mineral whose deficiency is unlikely with a normal diet.
Thankfully, toxicity is unlikely too, as this water-soluble vitamin is readily excreted in urine; but there are still good reasons for caution as an excess of folic acid can trigger symptoms of vitamin B12 deficiency.
Taking folic acid along with vitamin B12 may increase the risk of vitamin B12 deficiency. So be careful.
Leafy green vegetables (like spinach and turnip greens), fruits (like citrus fruits and juices), and dried beans and peas are all natural sources of folate.
(The author is a nutritionist, weight management consultant and health writer based in Delhi. She is the author of Don't Diet! 50 Habits of Thin People (Jaico) and Ultimate Grandmother Hacks: 50 Kickass Traditional Habits for a Fitter You (Rupa).