How to stay safe when taking multivitamins


| By Dr. Stephen Sinatra

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I’m a firm believer that taking the right multivitamin can make a big difference in your heart health, and overall well-being. But I stress the word right, because you do need to be extremely careful when choosing your multivitamin. That’s because many formulas contain dangerous nutrient combinations, as well as unsafe doses—which can have an adverse effect on your health, and your heart.

How to Stay Safe When Taking MultivitaminsPitfalls to Avoid When Taking Multivitamins

  1. Too much calcium. A new study published in the Journal of the American Heart Association suggests that a diet that includes calcium-rich foods appears to be protective against heart disease, yet taking too much calcium in the form of supplements may increase the risk of plaque buildup in the arteries and damage the heart. In addition to this, in men too much calcium can contribute to prostate cancer. Therefore, the optimal daily dose of calcium is 500 mg for women and 200 mg for men.
  2. Too much copper—which can have a pro-oxidant effect, damaging your tissues and cells. The upper safe limit is 2 mg of copper daily, which is what many multivitamins supply. But copper is also found in many foods, so if you take 2 mg in a multi, chances are you’re getting too much. Instead, try taking multivitamins that provide no more than 1 mg of copper.
  3. High levels of manganese. Many multivitamin formulas contain too much manganese, which can cause insomnia. You should take no more than 10 mg daily, and preferably far less.
  4. Too much beta carotene. In my nutrient formulas, I include vitamin A from mixed carotenoids and retinyl palmitate, instead of beta carotene, which is a precursor of vitamin A. The reason is that some people, especially those with low thyroid or alcoholism, can’t convert beta carotene into vitamin A. In smokers, beta carotene is converted into a carcinogen. If you take beta carotene, you want to take no more than 10,000 IU daily.
  5. High doses of d-alpha tocopherol succinate. Beware of taking multivitamins containing more than 400 IU of the d-alpha tocopherol succinate form of vitamin E, and no gamma tocopherol to neutralize it. The reason is that high levels of d-alpha tocopherol succinate can have a pro-oxidative effect on HDL cholesterol.
  6. Iron. The only people who should be taking iron are premenopausal women and men younger than 18, unless prescribed by a doctor. The reason is that iron can have a potent pro-oxidant effect.

Now it’s your turn: Are you taking a multivitamin?

This article originally appeared on Dr. Sinatra’s website.


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