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Vitamin toxicity.

By Ruba Shawwa Vitamins are organic molecules in food that are needed in small amounts for growth, reproduction and maintenance of good health. Basically, a diversified balanced diet that incorporates all essential food groups (carbohydrates, fruits, vegetables, meat and milk groups) supplies the daily requirements of all important vitamins and minerals packed with other natural substances that make the benefit even more. Unfortunately, nowadays and with the changes that have been occurring in people's lifestyles and the long working hours, people's dietary habits have been altered and their food consumption has been affected negatively in terms of quantity and quality. This has lead physicians to advise people to take vitamin supplements to make up for their inadequate or improper nutrition. Sadly, people have misused those supplements depending on a common faulty concept that states if a small dose of these vitamin supplements will enhance your health and wellbeing, then a bigger dose will absolutely have even better results. This has lead many people to take megadoses (large doses) of vitamins without realizing the possible dangers they are exposing themselves to. Vitamin toxicity--also known as hypervitaminosis or vitamin poisoning--is a condition in which a person develops symptoms as side effects from taking massive doses of vitamins. Symptoms differ from one person to another as well as from one vitamin to another, with some vitamins being more toxic than others if taken in excess.In general, there are two major categories of vitamins. Water-soluble vitamins and fat-soluble vitamins. Water-soluble vitamins are those vitamins that can be dissolved in water, so when the body recognizes that the intake of water-soluble vitamins exceeds daily needs, the elimination process becomes more efficient and the excess is excreted from the body with the urine. Nevertheless, it is still not recommended to consume extra amounts of these vitamins, especially taking the individual differences into consideration in this aspect. Water-soluble vitamins include B vitamins (folate, vitamin B12, biotin, vitamin B6, niacin, thiamin, riboflavin and pantothenic acid) and vitamin C (ascorbic acid). It is worth mentioning here that vitamin B12 forms an exception to water-soluble vitamins, as it can be stored in the liver. As for fat-soluble vitamins, they can't be dissolved in water, but they can be dissolved in oil or fat, which makes them a lot more dangerous, as any extra amounts of these vitamins will not be eliminated from the body. Rather, they will be stored in fat tissues and in various organs throughout the body. Thus, long term consumption of these vitamins at levels above those required can cause the build up of toxic levels of fat-soluble vitamins in the body. Fat-soluble vitamins include vitamin E, vitamin D, vitamin A and vitamin K, with vitamin D and vitamin A being the most toxic of the fat-soluble vitamins.Finally, I would like to give a few examples of vitamin toxicity and their symptoms. For example, the toxic dose of vitamin D for infants is a single dose of 15 mg or more, or daily doses of 1 mg over a prolonged period of time. As for adults, a single dose of 50 mgs or greater is considered toxic. Vitamin D toxicity symptoms include nausea, vomiting, pain in the joints, loss of appetite and muscular weakness. Toxic doses taken over a prolonged period of time result in irreversible deposits of calcium crystals in the soft tissues of the body that may damage the heart, lungs and kidneys. As for vitamin A toxicity, it can occur with long-term consumption of 20 mg of retinol or more per day. Symptoms include hydrocephalus (accumulation of water in the brain), painful bones and joints, vomiting, fatigue, hair loss, brittle nails, severe headaches, birth defects and abortions. As an example of individual differences regarding water-soluble vitamins, large doses of vitamin C for example are considered to be toxic in persons with a family history or tendency to form kidney or gallbladder stones.In conclusion, it is recommended that a person gets his requirements of vitamins from balanced, diverse diets, and if there was a need for supplementation, do not exceed the dose prescribed by your doctor for your own benefit. A*Vitamin toxicity

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Publication:The Star (Amman, Jordan)
Date:Sep 17, 2006
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