Taking vitamins give people a sense of peace, reassuring them that they are getting added sources of healthy substances. Some people tend to buy all types of vitamins and dietary supplements in stores, in hopes of achieving optimal health.
Experts, however, warned the public regarding the dangers of consuming megadoses of vitamins. A Canadian television program called "Fifth Estate," conducted an investigative feature and found out that people overdosing with vitamins and supplements with the aim to improve their health may actually be putting themselves at risk.
"When people walk into the dietary supplement or vitamin store, they think that everything is just perfectly safe," said Dr. Paul Offit, chief of the division of infectious diseases at Children's Hospital of Philadelphia. However, Offit was also alarmed to find out about the consequences of the high vitamin doses that people consume on a daily basis. According to him, some studies show how megavitamins can be detrimental and that people could up their chances of developing heart diseases and cancer.
In one scene, the CBC-TV show demonstrated how 1,000 milligrams of vitamin C is equivalent to seven to eight cantaloupes. Offit said people are not supposed to eat that much and the amount could be dangerous.
Another interesting finding of the investigation is the discrepancies that exist between the information on the labels and the actual content of the products. Specifically, CBC Marketplace found that a vitamin C supplement called Emergen-C which was labelled as containing 1,000 milligrams of the vitamin only had 332 milligrams when tested in the laboratory.
Neil Thanedar, CEO of the testing center LabDoor, said that more than 50 percent of the package is sugar. "So [it is] a little bit of vitamins and a lot of sugar," he claims. He added that vitamin C is the one of the most challenging vitamins to maintain due to its fast degradation over time.
Emergen-C maker Pfizer Canada defended its product and said that the testing did not follow industry standards.
Vitamin E is another issue. People can get their daily vitamin E requirement by eating 30 almonds. Experts, however, found that a capsule sold in the market had 50 times more of that amount. Offit said this could be dangerous and could lead to higher prostate cancer risk in men.
Last on the list of the most common vitamins being overdose is vitamin D. In Canada, the recommended dosage is 600 international units (IUs). Dr. Joanne Manson from Brigham and Women's Hospital, however, heard that different groups are recommending 5,000-10,000 IUs per day.
Manson said vitamin D megadosing could lead to calcium in the urine and blood, which may subsequently result in kidney stones and vascular calcification respectively. "So we can't assume that more is necessarily better," she said.
The television episode, entitled "Magic Pills," will be broadcasted on Friday, Nov. 20.
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