5 Vitamins You Should Stop Taking (Because You Don’t Need Them)
A healthy diet is one that provides enough vitamins to meet your body’s needs. Vitamins are essential micronutrients that contribute to normal physiology and health. Knowing this, many health-conscious folks supplement their diets with vitamins as a way to ensure they get their well-known benefits.
However, the fact of the matter is that you probably don’t need to do this. A balanced and varied diet can give you all the vitamins your body needs. Vitamin supplements are useful only when you’re at risk of developing or already have a deficiency. Otherwise, they’re a waste of money and may even be harmful.
On the other hand, it’s also true that some vitamins are harder to obtain than others. In that case, it’s a good idea to know which vitamin supplements may be helpful and which ones are unnecessary. To help you out, below are 5 vitamin supplements you don’t need to take, and we explain why that’s the case.
1. Vitamin A
Vitamin A is a type of fat-soluble nutrient. Beta carotene — a plant pigment found in red, green, and orange colored plant foods — can be also be converted into vitamin A. Your body needs vitamin A for growth, cell division, reproductive health, and immunity, among other things. It also acts as an antioxidant.
Most people in developed countries can get all the vitamin A they need through foods like leafy greens, tomatoes, milk, eggs, and chicken liver. In these countries, most cases of vitamin A deficiency are due to malabsorption caused by problems like chronic pancreatitis, chronic liver disease, intestinal failure, and after bariatric surgery. Otherwise, a healthy body is perfectly capable of absorbing all the vitamin A it needs from food, which is why supplementing isn’t necessary.
Another reason not to take vitamin A supplements is because large-scale studies have found a long time ago that it can increase lung cancer risk by 18%, especially in smokers. And then there’s also the risk of liver toxicity with high doses of this otherwise good-for-you nutrient.
2. Vitamin E
Like vitamin A, vitamin E is also fat-soluble and provides antioxidant protection. Also known as alpha-tocopherol, vitamin E prevents blood clots and is generally protective of cardiovascular health. And lucky for you, it’s easy to get all the vitamin E you need from a wide range of foods like sunflower seeds, almonds, avocados, peanuts, broccoli, and butter.
Unlike other fat-soluble vitamins, it’s relatively safe even at high doses. However, it may increase your risk of bleeding, especially if you are taking anticoagulants. That’s why it’s common practice to recommend against vitamin E supplements before surgery to minimize this problem.
There’s also evidence that vitamin E can interfere with the efficiency of statins and niacin as well as chemotherapy and radiation therapy. While not toxic to the liver and other organs at high doses, vitamin E supplements can cause trouble if not taken carefully. That’s why it’s best to stop taking them and stick to natural sources.
3. Vitamin C
You’re probably familiar with the importance and benefits of this water-soluble nutrient. Also known as ascorbic acid, vitamin C is necessary for collagen production, iron absorption, and immunity. Your body can’t synthesize vitamin C on its own, so it needs to obtain it from foods like bell peppers, kiwi fruit, strawberries, and oranges.
Although you only need about 75 to 90 mg of this nutrient a day for optimal health, many people believe that mega doses of this nutrient provide health benefits, like preventing and curing common colds. This common myth was started back in the 70s by Linus Pauling with his book, Vitamin C and the Common Cold.
However, there’s little actual evidence that taking more vitamin C than necessary cures anything. It may shorten the duration of a cold due to its antioxidant and anti-inflammatory action, however.
And although high doses of vitamin C are usually innocuous, there is one case report in Anesthesia and Intensive Care describing a patient who diet as a result of kidney failure due to too much vitamin C. High doses of vitamin C are known to increase the risk of kidneys stones in some people.
4. Vitamin D
Now, this one may come as a surprise given that vitamin D deficiency is pretty common in both developed and developing countries. Supplementing dairy milk with vitamin D has helped eradicate rickets in the developed world, and doctors often recommend that pregnant and breastfeeding women supplement their diets with vitamin D.
The thing is that many foods are already fortified with vitamin D, more specifically, with vitamin D2 and D3. Examples include cow’s milk, plant-based milk, breakfast cereal, and orange juice. Foods naturally high in this nutrient include fatty fish, beef liver, and eggs. But the biggest and most reliable source of this nutrient is sunlight. Your skin produces vitamin D naturally when exposed to UV rays.
At too high doses, vitamin D can be toxic. Vitamin D toxicity can cause calcium buildup in the blood. This can cause symptoms like confusion, nausea, vomiting, abdominal pain, excessive urination, and dehydration. It can also lead to the formation of kidney stones.
And lastly, if you’re taking multivitamin supplements, you probably consider switching to natural sources. Although designed to fill in nutritional gaps, multivitamins provide only a fraction of the nutrients found in real food. Natural sources of vitamins also contain macronutrients, fiber, and antioxidants, some of which work in synergy to boost vitamin absorption.
Studies do indeed show that our bodies are able to absorb vitamins in multivitamin supplements. But multivitamins can also cause side effects and contain potentially harmful ingredients.
Besides that, if you suspect you may have a nutrient deficiency, taking a multivitamin supplement may not be enough to correct it. A nutrient deficiency isn’t always a result of a poor diet. It can also be due to underlying health issues that you may not be aware of that could be the culprit.
Remember to always consult with a doctor before adjusting your vitamin regimen.
Kamangar F, Emadi A. Vitamin and mineral supplements: do we really need them?. Int J Prev Med. 2012;3(3):221-226. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3309636/
Marley A, Smith S, Ahmed R, et al. PWE-117 Vitamin A deficiency-not just a developing country problem. Gut 2018;67:A176-A177. https://gut.bmj.com/content/67/Suppl_1/A176.2.citation-tools
National Institutes of Health. Vitamin E. Fact Sheet for Consumers. March 22, 2021. https://ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/VitaminE-Consumer/
Hemilä H. Vitamin C and the common cold. Br J Nutr. 1992;67(1):3-16. doi:10.1079/bjn19920004
McHugh GJ, Graber ML, Freebairn RC. Fatal vitamin C-associated acute renal failure. Anaesth Intensive Care. 2008;36(4):585-588. doi:10.1177/0310057X0803600413