You wake up and reach for your daily fix. One multi. An extra C. A couple of calcium chews. It's the healthy American way, right? About half the people in this country pop at least one supplement on a regular basis, and many don't stop there, gulping down carefully orchestrated handfuls of pills while shoring up their diets with fortified foods and beverages.
What seems to have gotten lost in the enthusiasm for vitamins is the fact that too much of a good thing can, indeed, be bad. Growing evidence that high doses of individual nutrients may be harmful prompted the Food and Nutrition Board to establish a new measurement called the tolerable upper intake level (UL): the maximum amount of a vitamin or mineral from your food and supplements combined that's considered safe on a long-term daily basis (for a few nutrients, the UL only refers to supplements). There isn't enough data to calculate exactly how likely you are to have an adverse reaction by consistently going over the UL, and experts say that for most nutrients the odds are extremely low. Still, the dangers are real enough to suggest caution.
Take a look at this tip sheet to find out if you're getting what you need—or too much of a good thing.
These RDAs are for women. Risks refer to levels you get from food and supplements combined, except where noted.
From the July 2002 issue of O, The Oprah Magazine
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