The Dangers of Taking Supplements: What You Need to Know

Learn about the potential risks associated with taking dietary supplements and how to stay safe when using them.

The Dangers of Taking Supplements: What You Need to Know

The reality is that supplements can be hazardous when they are not medically necessary or do not provide any therapeutic benefit. There is also a risk of interactions, which can make any medication you are taking become less effective or cause unwanted and even dangerous side effects. Manufacturers can add vitamins, minerals, and other supplement ingredients to the foods you eat, particularly breakfast cereals and beverages. As a result, you may be consuming more of these components than you think, and more may not be better.

Taking more than you need costs more and may also increase the risk of side effects. For example, too much vitamin A can cause headaches and liver damage, reduce bone strength, and lead to birth defects. Too much iron causes nausea and vomiting and can damage the liver and other organs. Some people believe that megadoses of certain vitamins can prevent or cure diseases.

However, no scientific study has proven this to be true. In fact, large doses of some vitamins or minerals can be dangerous and even harmful. For instance, the body cannot eliminate large doses of vitamin A. If taken in excess, it can reach toxic levels, which can damage organs and interfere with certain medications.

Research shows that most of the vitamins you get from the foods you eat are better than those in pills. Although vitamins in supplements are synthesized with the exact chemical composition of natural vitamins, they still don't seem to work as well. You can share this record with your healthcare providers to discuss what is best for your overall health. Side effects of dietary supplements occur more often if people take high doses or use them instead of medications prescribed by their healthcare provider.

If you think you've had an adverse reaction to a dietary supplement, tell your healthcare provider. Make sure to inform your healthcare providers (including doctors, dentists, pharmacists, and dieticians) about any dietary supplements you are taking. Additionally, be careful when giving supplements to a child, unless recommended by your healthcare provider. This site includes fact sheets and videos on dietary supplements for the public, educators, and health professionals.

Remember to report any complementary medications (including vitamin and mineral supplements) you are taking when you visit a health professional. Talk to your health care team before taking large doses of any vitamin, mineral, or other supplement.