Vitamins and how much should you take?
Benefits and risks of taking supplements
Vitamins and mineral supplements have gained popularity and are well-known for supporting our well-being. Unavoidably, without medical professionals’ advice vitamins and supplements may be potentially misused or even overdosed leading to undesirable effects including short-term and long-term effects. All possible health risks and benefits must be first taken into account since most supplements are easily accessed and do not need any doctor’s prescription.
Vitamin supplements are notably popular today
In many cases, vitamin supplements have been widely used as an anti-aging therapy and alternative medicine to prevent health-related diseases. Multiple studies have shown that vitamins can reduce the oxidative stress caused by free radicals which are harmful molecules damaging and contributing to cell ageing. Moreover, clinical trials in patients taking vitamin supplements have shown a significant reduction in common cold frequency and shortened duration.
Due to its easy accessibility, many supplements have been increasingly popular as an alternative to medicine. For example, clinical trials have shown that vitamin D3, C and zinc are effective in reducing covid-19 illness severity.
"Vitamins are not classified as drugs".
Vitamins are small organic compounds that our bodies required in only small amounts to assist and normalised numerous body function such as converting food to energy, and supporting liver detoxification.
Ideally, the best source of vitamins and minerals is found in nutritious, healthy whole foods such as grains, meats, fruits and vegetables. Be noted that, we still must acquire most of the essential vitamins and minerals from a range of dietary sources since our bodies cannot synthesise them.
Another reason why we lack vitamins and minerals is due to the increased consumption of processed foods today, such as pizza, bakeries and fast foods. These foods are not only nutritionless but also high in salt, fats and sugars, leading to numerous detrimental health problems such as cardiovascular diseases, obesity, diabetes and other metabolic disorders.
It is best to take care of your body from the inside, strengthen your body to cope with some diseases and reduce the chance of those illnesses. Starting your healthy journey with vitamins that can be beneficial to fulfill our daily requirements and help sustain a nutritional balance to support our well-being along with a healthy balanced diet.
Amount of vitamins and minerals matters
Good news! Most nutritional supplements are safe and beneficial as guided by dietary supplement facts. Researchers have linked supplements of vitamins B2, B6 and B9 to lower the risk of type 2 diabetes which were associated with reducing inflammation in diabetic patients. However, high-dose supplements must be only taken under the physician’s prescription. To explain, there are two main types of dietary level assessment, RDA and UL.
What are the terms RDA and UL?
The RDA (Recommended Dietary Allowance) is the amount of daily vitamins or minerals you need to remain healthy and well-nourished.
Being mindful, RDA value varies among age, sex and health status since the micronutrient's dietary requirements are different. For example, pregnant women will require at least 400 mg of folate (vitamin B9) for proper development of the fetus spinal cord compared to a requirement of 200mg in non-pregnant women.
Tolerable Upper Intake Level or UL is the maximum amount of daily vitamins and minerals safely intake without severe side effects. It is advised by healthcare professionals that you do not exceed this level to ascertain that you will not face increased risks of side effects and long-term health problems. The Institute of Medicine has determined upper limits for essential vitamins and minerals for adults ages 19 or older shown in table 1 (which does not apply to women who are pregnant or breastfeeding)
The two main types of vitamins
These are readily excreted from our body via urine and not accumulated in tissues, in this case, they're unlikely to cause health problems even when taken in high doses.
Water-soluble vitamins include vitamin C and eight B vitamins including
Vitamin B1 (thiamine)
Vitamin B2 (riboflavin)
Vitamin B3 (niacin)
Vitamin B5 (pantothenic acid)
Vitamin B6 (pyridoxine)
Vitamin B7 (biotin)
Vitamin B9 (folate)
Vitamin B12 (cobalamin)
In contrast, fat-soluble vitamins can be accumulated in fat tissue when taken in excess, may lead to toxicity. The four fat-soluble vitamins include
Table 1. RDA and UL of vitamins and minerals according to Institute of Medicine
Vitamin / Minerals
Recommended Dietary Allowance (RDA)
Upper Tolerable Limit (UL) . *The highest amount you can take without health risk*
Men age 71+: 1,200 mg/day
Age 19-50: 2,500 mg/day
Age 51 and up: 2,000 mg/day
Folate (vitamin B9)
Men: 8 mg/day
Women age 51 and up: 8 mg/day
Men age 19-30: 400 mg/day
This applies only to magnesium in supplements
Men: 2.3 mg/day *
Women: 1.8 mg/day*
Over age 70: 3,000 mg/day
Age 19-50: 1,500 mg/day *
Age 71 and up: 1,200 mg/day *
Women: 700 mcg/day
2,300 mg/day3,000 mcg/day
Women: 14 mg/day
Men age 19-50: 1.3 mg/day
Women age 51 up: 1.5 mg/day
Women: 75 mg/day
Vitamin level is affected by your DNA!
Health experts in nutrigenomics have discovered that differences in genetic makeup influence our body's ability to absorb nutrients. For example, vitamin D absorption in our bodies is controlled by a gene called GC (Vitamin D Binding Protein). This genetic variation may affect our body's ability to absorb vitamin D. Supplementing vitamin D is indispensably crucial for those who are malabsorption.
" Taking dietary supplements should be guided by a health professional to help design a formula or dietary regimen that is most suitable for you".
Additionally, OTC (over-the-counter) supplements that are easily accessible, trustworthy and certified manufacturers can be the best choice recommended for you to choose quality supplements.
Institute of Medicine (US) Standing Committee on the Scientific Evaluation of Dietary Reference Intakes. (1997). Dietary reference intakes. In Dietary Reference Intakes for Calcium, Phosphorus, Magnesium, Vitamin D, and Fluoride. National Academies Press (US).
Willett, W. C., & Stampfer, M. J. (2001). What vitamins should I be taking, doctor?. New England journal of medicine, 345(25), 1819-1824.
Institute of Medicine (IOM): "Dietary Reference Intakes for Calcium and Vitamin D."
FamilyDoctor.org: "Vitamins and Minerals: What You Should Know."
National Osteoporosis Foundation: "NOF Scientific Statement: National Osteoporosis Foundation's Updated Recommendations for Calcium and Vitamin D3 Intake."