The topic of dietary supplements and their effectiveness is always up for debate. Many health experts will recommend adding vitamins or minerals when a person appears deficient in a particular area; however, taking an overabundance of supplements can actually prove to be harmful to one’s health—even to the extreme of causing grave illness or cancer.

Who’s on Supplement Guard?

When it comes to the dietary supplement business, there is no watchdog. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is basically responsible for guarding the safety of Americans in respect to foods, cosmetics, tobacco, and medical products. On the Administration’s website it reports, “The Food and Drug Administration is responsible for protecting the public health by ensuring the safety, efficacy, and security of human and veterinary drugs.”

Vitamins, minerals, herbs, and other non-pharmaceutical supplements do not need a green light from the FDA to be sold on the public market. Those aforementioned products do not need to prove they are safe or effective before being placed on a shelf or online for consumer purchase. This is both a blessing and a curse.

The Good News First

For those health professionals as well as interested consumers, it’s a slightly good thing the FDA isn’t involved with dietary supplements. Some people want to have accessibility to products they believe will enhance the quality of their health (without government interference.) Getting the vitamins we need from fresh foods is always the best source. But, what about when people show a deficiency in a particular vitamin? Shouldn’t they be able to supplement with a pill, powder, or drops to improve their nutritional levels?

This, of course, is where the debate on efficacy comes in. But that is not what this article is addressing. It’s not whether you believe or can prove a supplement’s effectiveness, it’s about getting it and taking too much. This is where the not-so-good news comes in.

The News You Don’t Want to Hear

Whether supplements are positively effective or not is still medically and personally up for debate. The reality, however, is that overconsumption of certain vitamins, minerals, and/or herbs can definitely be dangerous to your health. This is where guidelines can come in handy. The problem is that many consumers are misinformed. Instead of becoming educated, they have become victims of marketing.

For example, GetThrive recently posted an article on the pitfalls of over-the-counter acid-blocking medications. Many of them do not allow absorption of vitamin B12, which is a necessary element required for proper health. Many health experts in this particular case recommend a B12 supplement. But how much? If people aren’t informed properly, they may believe that more is better. As for the B vitamins, as it turns out, more is not only “not better” it’s downright disastrous.

A B Study

The results of a study on high doses of vitamin B6 and B12 supplements were very recently published in the Journal of Clinical Oncology. Researchers discovered that overdosing on those particular vitamins could triple or even quadruple the risk of the user getting lung cancer.

Vitamin B6 and B12 have shown to actually prevent cancer—when taken in proper doses. The problem, it seems, is that health food stores and online markets are selling such high doses of these supplements without care (or regulation) for their possible adverse effects. As it appears, avoiding excess is as crucial as supplementing properly.

The results of the study showed this data:

– The US daily-recommended allowance for Vitamin B6 is 1.7 milligrams per day. The high-risk group of lung cancer patients were taking over 20 milligrams of B6 per day. (Here’s the off-the-charts detail: Vitamin B6 is sold in stores and online regularly in pills bearing up to 100 milligrams!)

– Vitamin B12 is available in 5,000 microgram doses. The daily recommended allowance is 2.4 micrograms.
Clearly, consumers can easily overdose.

In this case, it is easily understandable how consumers can put their health at risk (even when they are trying to do something to improve their health.) The best advice is get information. When examining the US daily recommendation of a particular vitamin or mineral, keep that number in mind when making a purchase or ingesting.

As with anything, moderation is the best choice.