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Know the ABCs of vitamins

The start of a new year can be a source of inspiration to get healthy, and for some that means a renewed focus on nutrition. But how much of a good thing is too much when it comes to taking vitamins?

"It is always best to ask your primary provider or pharmacist about the specifics of a vitamin, if you are planning to start one or are having problems from taking it," according to Dr. Scott Benson, a family medicine physician at Mayo Clinic Health System in Cannon Falls.

Dr. Scott BensonIt is easy to exceed the recommended dosage of vitamins when mixing multiple vitamins at once, Benson said. Large doses can cause problems in the body, including weakness, joint pain, headaches and weight loss from too much vitamin A and D. Too much vitamin E can cause excessive bleeding and increase the risk of prostate cancer.

"Because these products are active and potent chemicals, they can interact with each other and with medications," Benson said.

Taking too much of one vitamin can get in the way of other vitamins, he said. For example, large doses of Vitamin A can interfere with absorption of vitamin K, while vitamin E can inhibit certain enzymes and negate the effect of vitamin K.

Natural not always safe

Though ingredients in dietary supplements — which can include a variety of vitamins, minerals, amino acids and botanicals — have natural sources, that does not always mean they are safe, according to the National Institutes of Health.

The NIH's Office of Dietary Supplements offers the following safety considerations:

• Speak with a health care provider about dietary supplements, especially before a surgical procedure.

• Never take supplements in place of, or in combination with, medication without a doctor's approval.

• Keep a record of supplements being taken, including product name and dosage.

The NIH also cautions that dietary supplements are regulated differently than prescription and over-the-counter drugs, and do not require Food and Drug Administration approval before they can be marketed.

More information on dietary supplements can be found at ods.od.nih.gov.

Michael Brun

Michael Brun joined RiverTown Multimedia at the Red Wing Republican Eagle in March 2013, covering county government, health and local events.  He is a graduate of the University of Wisconsin-River Falls journalism program.

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