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Supplements should be taken in moderation, writes Amanda Ngudle

By unknown | Feb 22, 2007 | COMMENTS [ 0 ]

As if spending a fortune on maintaining good health were not hard enough, it seems that some supplements can do more harm than good if taken in excess.

As if spending a fortune on maintaining good health were not hard enough, it seems that some supplements can do more harm than good if taken in excess.

Vitamin supplements are a necessity, especially for children, the chronically ill, heavy drinkers and smokers, vegetarians, pregnant women and the elderly.

If you have an ideal diet - at least five pieces of fruit daily on top of three balanced meals - your body can manufacture these nutrients itself. It uses vitamins to build and maintain tissues and organs.

"Vitamins provide energy, boost the immune system, keep skin healthy and help keep the brain and nervous system in good working order," said Dr Thozi Sangweni.

"But just like too much of a good thing can be bad for you, there are vitamin supplements that are not good for you," he warned.

First is vitamin A. The administration of this important nutritional supplement is usually vigilantly observed by health practitioners during the baby's first few months because of anti-oxidant properties and other health benefits important to a growing body.

"Vitamin A, also called retinol, helps your eyes adjust to light changes, and your eyes, skin and mucous membranes to stay moist," said Sangweni.

"Most of our vitamin A comes from animal foods, but some plant-based foods supply betacarotene, which your body converts into vitamin A.

"The vitamin's anti-oxidant properties neutralise free radicals in the body which cause tissue and cellular damage.

"But an overdose can cause nausea, irritability and blurred vision. The palms of the hands and the soles of the feet can turn orange if a person has too high an intake of vitamin A.

"Vitamin A toxicity can cause growth retardation, hair loss and an enlarged spleen and liver in its more severe form.

"An overdose can can also cause birth defects. That is why nurses will not give a woman vitamin A shots if she plans to become pregnant within a few months," Sangweni explained.

Vitamin C is another supplement to be careful of.

It helps to heal wounds, prevent cell damage, promote healthy gums and teeth, and strengthen the immune system.

It also helps the body to absorb iron.

"Recent research has indicated that vitamin C might be associated with delayed ageing and disease prevention because it destroys free radicals - the molecules associated with ageing and cell damage," he said.

An overdose of vitamin C can cause a flushed face, headaches, increased urination, stomach problems, such as mild diarrhoea and gas, nausea and vomiting.

Pregnant and breast-feeding women should not take more than the recommended amount of vitamin C.


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