What does David Getoff say about this article: Can You Overdose on Vitamins?
By Stephanie Bucklin, published by Fox News, April 26, 2017
Dr. Olveen Carrasquillo, Chief of Internal Medicine at the University of Miami Health System, told Fox News that people can often overdose on certain fat-soluble vitamins if they use supplements. “While it’s hard to overdose on such vitamins by just eating a natural, well-balanced diet, vitamin supplements can lead to extremely high, toxic levels of these fat-soluble vitamins. The problem is that those vitamins are not easily cleared out by the kidney, so they can accumulate faster.”
The article begins by saying that Vitamin A is found in foods like sweet potatoes and eggs. That it is connected to the central nervous system and therefore an overdose of this vitamin could lead to problems like confusion and lethargy and have adverse effects on your heart and bone health.
The first factual error in this article is that there is no Vitamin A in sweet potatoes! Vitamin A is an animal fat molecule. It doesn’t exist in the plant world. Beta carotene is found in plants, but it is a completely different molecule than Vitamin A. Some people can turn beta carotene into Vitamin A if the body is healthy and working correctly, but the sweet potato itself is a plant and therefore it contains ZERO Vitamin A.
I do agree that it is possible to overdose on Vitamin A, but in my 25 yrs. of practice, I have seen 2 cases of people that overdosed on this vitamin. Yet there are many thousands of people who overdose on aspirin and other prescription and non-prescription drugs every single year and, many, of course, have died. Natural Vitamin A has never killed anyone. The few reports of arctic explorers dying from consuming millions of units of Vitamin A from seal and polar bear liver could not be verified.
If someone experiences headaches or dry skin from taking too much Vitamin A, I would tell them to stop it for a few months and the symptoms go away as the body uses up the excess A.
More importantly, the article was negligent in informing the public of the amount of Vitamin A that could be considered an overdose. This misinformation promotes unnecessary fear that can lead to people becoming deficient in this important vitamin. Vitamins in ALL CASES are massively less toxic than drugs. Aspirin and Tylenol both kill thousands every year according to our own government agencies.
Ask your doctor to go to the “Vitamin A Toxicity” section in the latest (19th) edition of the Merck Manual, the oldest continuously published medical textbook for physicians and pharmacists. It quotes: “Acute Vitamin A toxicity in children MAY (not “will”) result from taking doses of over 300,000 units, usually accidentally. In adults, acute toxicity has occurred when arctic explorers ingested polar bear liver or seal liver which contains several million units of Vitamin A.” An “acute toxicity” means that you will have an effect quickly.
A “chronic toxicity” is when you take something for a long period of time and it slowly builds up in your body. Referring to the Merck Manuel again, I quote, “Chronic toxicity in older children and adults would usually result in doses of above 100,000 units a day taken for months.” In other words, is it possible to overdose on Vitamin A? I will have to agree. When the author and the physician that was interviewed don’t inform you that in their own medical literature it states that for an adult or an older child to possibly get any of the overdose reactions they mentioned above, it would take doses of over 100,000 units over many months. People can’t overdose from Vitamin A if you take it according to the directions on the label. Also, you would not be able to even find Vitamin A in capsules of 100,000 units. The highest you could find is 25,000 units and if someone took one capsule of that a day, according to the Merck Manual, you could never overdose on that amount. Personally, I’ve never seen anyone overdose on 25,000 units a day, but I guess it’s possible – maybe after a year or two but even that is not likely.
The second Vitamin the author talks about is Vitamin D. She claims that many adults don’t consume enough foods rich in Vitamin D and I agree with that. Dr. Carrasquillo said that you “should take a multivitamin if the physician recommends it, however, since it’s involved in controlling the body’s metabolism of calcium, an excess of Vitamin D could lead to high calcium levels.” So, could somebody take too much Vitamin D? Sure, it’s possible. Have I ever seen anybody take too much Vitamin D or get an effect from it? No, I haven’t.
It is important to note that Dr. John Cannell, M.D., Founder and Medical Director of the Vitamin D Research Council, along with his many scientists, have studied thousands of people in the United States and Canada to determine how much Vitamin D a healthy person should take. Over a 10 – 15 year period, their results found that 99% of the public have less vitamin D then would be required to greatly reduce their risk for numerous diseases.
If you use the incorrectly too low current lab reference ranges, which state that above 32ng/ml is “normal”, then only a mere 85% of the population have low values and are deficient in Vitamin D.
But if you look at the research studies, they show that a blood value of 32 is not sufficient, that it should be at least 45 or maybe 50 or 55, which means that 98-99% of the public is deficient in Vitamin D. So could you overdose? Sure. I have never seen it, but it must be possible. However, since I believe everybody is deficient, most people need to be taking extra Vitamin D in the form of D3.
This is in addition to the amount in your multivitamin, which doesn’t have enough Vitamin D. The only way to know how much to take is by getting a 25 (OH) vitamin D blood test and see what your numbers are. You want your values to be between the “sweet spot” of where the Vitamin D Council scientists believe you should be, which varies a little bit from scientist to scientist but almost all are somewhere between from 50 – 90ng/ml. My sweet spot is between 60 and 80ng/ml. If you’re not within that range, work with a healthcare practitioner to increase your dose of Vitamin D until you get within the range they recommend. Most people need between 3,000 and 10,000 IU a day. You should stay on the same dose for about 3 months before having your blood checked again to see where your numbers are. If that dosage hasn’t brought your numbers up enough, raise your dose a little more and repeat the test in another 3 months.
The Vitamin D Council offers a table that shows on average how much a supplement regimen might take to raise your blood levels, which is more of a prediction than a guarantee, as everyone has different needs. Due to the massive benefits of Vitamin D and the ease with which people can get the D3 test and the required supplements, many can adjust this without their doctor as it is not a drug.
I teach my student to do this every semester:
1.) Get the 25 (OH) Vitamin D test.
2.) If the test result was done by a U.S. lab, and your number is below 45ng/ml, you would likely benefit by raising it. Take 2,000 to 3,000iu per day for 90 days and test again. If it is now between 50 and 80ng/ml, then that is your daily dose. If it is still too low, raise your dose by 2,000iu and test in another 90 days, etc.
Please note that these are U.S. lab values. Canadian and European labs use a different unit of measure and the range must be converted.
The Vitamin D Council offers the 25(OH)D blood test using a simple finger stick that you do at home and mail in the results.
So again, could you be deficient and could you take too much Vitamin. D? Yes. What % of the public has too much Vitamin D? Approximately zero. What % of the public is severely deficient in Vitamin D? Over 85%. What % of the public is at least somewhat deficient in Vitamin D? About 99%.
So once again, an article scaring people that they may be taking too much Vitamin D and having some people stop taking it without informing them of the above facts is misleading and in many cases quite harmful. I would classify that article as an enemy to public health.
The next nutrient the article covered was Vitamin E. It says Vitamin E, which is in foods like almonds and spinach, can, if taken in excess, interfere with the absorption of certain vitamins and lead to increased bleeding. I’ve never seen any research that has demonstrated this. When people make that claim and I ask them to produce the research, so far no one has been able to do so.
The Vitamin E complex is another fat-soluble set of vitamins that almost everybody is deficient in. We need healthy fats in our diet and Vitamin E gets used up protecting those fats. I want my patients to be getting Vitamin E in decent size doses – at least 400 units of d-alpha tocopherol in its natural, oil based liquid form with adequate amounts of beta, delta and lots of gamma added. The only product that I like for this is called Unique E. (I have nothing to gain from promoting their products other than helping my patients and my students. All of my patients are taking at least one Unique E soft gel a day and many are taking 2 or 3. If the fats and cholesterol molecules are properly protected from oxidation then they do not cause any health problems. If you have been told that your cholesterol is high or you are taking a toxic liver, heart, muscle and brain destroying drug (statin drugs) to unnaturally lower it, I highly recommend that you go to my website and read all of the articles in the first section under Published Articles.
The next vitamin on the list that the author claims you can take too much of is Vitamin K. She says, “Vitamin K, which you can get naturally from kale and broccoli, can affect the liver, and should never be taken as a supplement if a patient is on blood thinners.” Actually, if you read the research studies that have been published on Vitamin K, it clearly shows that with patients on blood thinners who are taking small amounts of Vitamin K, either in a multivitamin or by eating foods that have small amounts of Vitamin K in them, it is easier for the doctor to regulate their blood viscosity (blood thickness) using the INR test than had they avoided it. AND most people are deficient in Vitamin K. If you are not on a blood thinner, most people can take a bit larger dose of Vitamin K because without it, your neurological system doesn’t work correctly and your bones don’t build properly. Since vitamin K is a trace vitamin, we only need about 100-150mcg per day and I am referring to K1, not all the current hype about K2 and Mk7. The most important thing for people on blood thinners to know is that their daily K1 intake should remain fairly constant from day to day so that their physician can regulate their blood viscosity properly.
In summary, I disagree with the majority of this article. It does more harm than good for the public who are mostly starving for reliable information to improve their health. If I were a conspiracy theorist, I would say this article was written to scare people away from nutrients which might improve their health and require them to need fewer drugs and fewer doctor visits. I hope that this is not why it was written.
Post written by Joan Grinzi, RN
©Copyright David Getoff, CCN, CTN, FAAIM
Disclaimer: This article is based upon the opinion of David Getoff, CCN, CTN, FAAIM, unless otherwise noted. The information is not intended to replace medical advice. It is intended as a sharing of knowledge and information of published research and the experience of David Getoff. Make informed decisions based on reading the published research and working with a qualified health care professional. If you are pregnant, nursing, taking medication, or have a medical condition, consult your health care professional before using any products discussed anywhere on this website.