Is Taking Multivitamins Safe?

by Dr. Stephen Sinatra
Last Reviewed 02/27/2014

Is Taking Multivitamins Safe?

Since I began practicing medicine years ago, the nutritional supplement industry has exploded. Now, you can’t walk into a grocery store, vitamin shop or even online, without seeing hundreds of supplement choices. 

But, when it comes to taking multivitamins in particular you need to choose extremely carefully. That’s because many formulas contain dangerous nutrient combinations, as well is unsafe doses—which can have an adverse effect on your health, and your heart.

Pitfalls to Avoid When Taking Multivitamins

  1. Too much calcium. High levels of calcium in the blood can cause inflammation of the blood vessels. Plus, in men, too much calcium can contribute to prostate cancer. The optimal daily dose of calcium is 500 mg for women, and 200 mg for men.

  2. Too much copper—which can have a pro-oxidant effect, damaging your tissues and cells. The upper safe limit is 2 mg of copper daily, which is what many multivitamins supply. But copper is also found in many of the foods, so if you take 2 mg chances are you’re getting too much. Instead, try taking multivitamins that provide no more than 1 mg of copper.

  3. High levels of manganese. Many multivitamin formulas contain too much manganese, which can cause insomnia. You should take no more than 10 mg daily, and preferably far less.

  4. Too much beta carotene. In my nutrient formulas, I include vitamin A from mixed carotenoids and retinyl palmitate, instead of beta carotene, which is a precursor of vitamin A. The reason is that some people, especially those with low thyroid or alcoholism, can’t convert beta carotene into vitamin A. In smokers, beta carotene is converted into a carcinogen. If you take beta carotene, you want to take no more than 10,000 IU daily.

  5. 5. High doses of d-alpha tocopherol succinate. Beware of taking multivitamins containing more than 400 IU of the d-alpha tocopherol succinate form of vitamin E, and no gamma tocopherol to neutralize it. The reason is that high levels of d-alpha tocopherol succinate can have a pro-oxidative effect on HDL cholesterol.

  6. Iron. The only people who should be taking iron are premenopausal women and men younger than 18, unless prescribed by a doctor. The reason is that iron can have a potent pro-oxidant effect.

Now it’s your turn: Are you taking a multivitamin?

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