When it comes to vitamins and minerals, moderation is key

Vitamins A, C and E are known as antioxidants that can help prevent cancer. But taking excessive amounts of vitamin C can cause diarrhoea, or worse, kidney stones. Similarly, too much vitamin A can lead to serious health risks, including damage to the liver. This is because the body absorbs some vitamins – such as A and E – and minerals only slowly. Taking more than the daily recommended levels can lead to a steady buildup of these substances in the liver and fatty tissues, which increases the risk of reaching toxic levels.

Water-soluble vitamin C is flushed out of the body when too much is consumed. “Even so,” said Mr Johnathan Diong, Senior Pharmacist at the Department of Pharmacy​, Singapore General Hospital (SGH), a member of the SingHealth​ group, “it can be harmful in a normal healthy individual when taken at very high doses over a long period.” Vitamins and minerals play different roles in the proper growth and functioning of the body.

Vitamin C, present in fruits and vegetables, is a basic ingredient for beauty and promotes wound healing, Mr Diong said. Someone who doesn’t get enough vitamin C may suffer from bleeding gums and frequent bruising. Vitamins C and E – found in nuts and oils, green leafy and root vegetables – boost the body’s natural antioxidants to help mop up excess free radicals which can hasten ageing and cause cancer.

Calcium and phosphate are crucial for bone formation, while iron is essential for the production of red blood cells. Vitamins and minerals are present naturally in the foods we eat. Thus, eating a balanced meal with a wide variety of fresh meat, grains and vegetables ought to supply the body with all the vitamins and minerals it needs. But long hours at work and the convenience of takeout meals mean more people are not getting their full recommended daily dose of vitamins and minerals. “With our busy work schedules, I wonder how many of us are able to meet the Health Sciences Authority’s recommendation to consume two portions each of fresh fruits and vegetables a day,” said Mr Diong.

In such cases, taking a daily multivitamin can help ensure nutritional requirements are met. A multivitamin tablet contains sufficient vitamins to prevent and correct nutrient deficiency, but does not provide the full daily requirement. For instance, it does not contain sufficient calcium to meet the US recommended daily allowance of 1,000mg of elemental calcium for an average adult. Many people have started to take a variety of vitamins and minerals in the belief that large amounts of supplements can help delay ageing, prevent disease as well as enhance mental or physical abilities.

Although what is consumed may fall below the upper limit of tolerance for that particular mineral or vitamin, problems arise when vitamins and minerals are taken in excess over a long period. As with all good things, moderation is the key to maintaining a strong and healthy body.

Pharmacy Department at SGH

See next page for 5 essential vitamins​.

​Ref: U11