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Wednesday 17th July 2019

Are vitamins safe?

3rd February 2008

Taking vitamin tablets is more popular than ever before. The Telegraph examines whether taking supplements could actually be harmful to health.


In Britain, over 40% of the population take a vitamin supplement every day. We spent around £360million on tablets in 2007. A study released in January said taking vitamins during pregnancy was beneficial to a baby's development.

However, taking vitamin pills can also cause significant damage to health. Another study discovered that around one million women who took calcium had 50% more risk of having a heart attack than those taking placebo tablets.

Listed below are the UK's most popular vitamin supplements, their benefits and potentially harmful side-effects.

Vitamin A
maintains healthy skin and immunity. The recommended daily amount is 0.7 mg for men and 0.6 mg for women. Multivitamins usually contain high levels of Vitamin A. Taking too much of the vitamin can increase the danger of fractures in older women. An excess of the vitamin can also be harmful to a developing baby in early pregnancy.

Vitamin D provides protection against cancer, heart disease and diabetes. It ensures the health of bones and teeth by regulating calcium and phosphate levels. Creation of the vitamin occurs when sunlight hits the skin and from food sources such as oily fish. A deficiency of the vitamin can cause rickets.

Manganese, a trace element, is commonly prescribed for "diabetes, epilepsy, high cholesterol, Parkinson's disease, rheumatoid arthritis, and schizophrenia". Food and drink which contain the vitamin include tea, bread and nuts.

Taking an excess of this element can cause heavy metal poisoning. Anyone taking a combination of supplements should be wary of inadvertently exceeding the safe dose.

converts ingested food into energy and helps bones to stay healthy. The recommended daily amount is 300 mg for men and 270 mg for women. Sources of magnesium include bread, meat and fish.

A person can easily consume too much magnesium if supplements are combined and it can cause severe diarrhoea.

"is the plant version of vitamin A" and is found in mangoes, melons and apricots. It is often taken to boost antioxidant levels and by smokers. The dangers of taking too much beta-carotene are serious, as studies showed that it could cause "more aggressive forms of cancer."

Vitamin C
can help to protect cells from damage. The recommended daily amount is 40 mg. Food sources of the vitamin include peppers, oranges and broccolli.

The "low toxicity" means the vitamin is less dangerous at high doses than some other vitamins. However taking "levels of 2,000mg a day" can cause diarrhoea. It has also been suggested that taking more than 1g a day of the vitamin could generate "free radicals rather than mopping them up."


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