Dangers of Vitamin Supplements – A Seniors Nightmare

It is difficult to imagine that there could be associated dangers of vitamin supplements usage. This is because vitamins are generally seen as being good for you.

However, there may be lurking dangers of vitamin supplements associated with using too many or exceeding recommended dosages.

The dangers may be amplified in seniors and the elderly because of metabolic changes in the body with age. It is always best to discuss with your healthcare provider before taking any supplements.

What are Dietary Supplements?

Many people use the terms “dietary supplements” and “vitamin supplements” interchangeably, but there is a slight difference.

In addition to vitamins, dietary supplements can contain minerals, herbs or other botanicals, amino acids, enzymes, and several other ingredients.

According to Wikipedia,  dietary supplement is a manufactured product intended to supplement the users diet by taking a pill, capsule, tablet, powder, or liquid.

Supplements can provide nutrients extracted from food sources or that are synthetic in order to increase the quantity of their consumption. Multivitamins are the most commonly used product among types of dietary supplements.

Mineral supplements are essential requirements for the body in low doses. Common minerals include iron, selenium, calcium, chromium, copper, and zinc.

Benefits of Vitamins and Dietary Supplements – Cautionary Note

Dietary supplements help provide adequate amounts of essential nutrients if the user, for one reason or the other, does not eat a balanced and healthy diet which could provide necessary nutrients.

However, supplements should not replace eating the variety of foods that are important to a healthy diet. Healthy eating is always recommended. There are certain associated dangers of vitamin supplements when they are overused.

Foods that Support Healthy Bones, Joints and Muscle - Dangers of Vitamin Supplements
Healthy Eating – Fish, Fruits and Vegetables

In aging adults, some well-known dietary supplements have been shown to improve overall health and benefit the management of certain health conditions.

Calcium and vitamin D help maintain bone strength and reduce bone loss.

The combination of vitamins C and E, zinc, copper, lutein, and zeaxanthin (known as AREDS) may slow down further vision loss in people with age-related macular degeneration (AMD).

Omega-3 fatty acids from fish oils is believed to be beneficial for heart health.

Composition of Dietary Supplements

All dietary supplements sold on the market are regulated and must have a “Supplement Facts label” listing the active ingredients, the amount per serving (dose), other ingredients, such as fillers, binders, and flavorings.

The product manufacturer usually suggests the recommended dose (amount per serving) based on clinical trials used for regulatory approval of the product.

This may not necessarily suit your physiological requirements, which is why it is always strongly recommended that you consult with your healthcare provider before buying a supplement “off the shelf”.

The dose recommended by the manufacturer may be inadequate, or it could be too high for you.

Forms of Dietary Supplements

Many adults take one or more vitamins or other dietary supplements. These supplements are sold in different forms such as tablets, gummies, capsules, powders, drinks, and energy bars.

Popular supplements on the market include vitamins A, D, B12; minerals like calcium and iron; herbs such as echinacea and garlic; and products like glucosamine, probiotics, prebiotics, and fish oils.

Dangers of Vitamin Supplements – Using Vitamin Supplements Above Recommended Doses

Almost all supplements contain active ingredients that can have negative side effects in the body if taken above the recommended dosage.

Side effects may also be caused by taking too many supplements which may interact with each other or with certain other medication.

Few people are aware that vitamins, minerals, and other supplement ingredients may be added to foods we eat especially breakfast cereals and beverages.

Unfortunately, taking additional doses in supplements mean that the intake amounts are higher than expected. It is important to keep this in mind.

A Laughing Senior Couple - Dangers of Vitamin Supplements
A Laughing Senior Couple


For instance, if you have too much vitamin D in your system, you might be causing yourself kidney damage.

Vitamin D is generally good for you but do not assume that although the supplement bottle recommends a daily dose of one a day that you will be better off and get better results by taking more than one tablet!

Unfortunately, this is not true as you will be causing harm to your body.

For example, too much Vitamin A can cause headaches and liver damage, reduce bone strength, and even result in death


Antioxidant supplements, such as Vitamins C and E, may interact with and reduce the effectiveness of certain types of cancer chemotherapy.


This Vitamin can reduce the ability of the blood thinner warfarin to prevent blood from clotting.

B VITAMINS and the Dangers of Overuse of B3, B6

Taking regular doses of niacin generally causes a flushing and stinging sensation of the skin. This is natural, and a side effect that can be managed.

However, if you take too much supplemental niacin (B3), you could cause nausea and vomiting, skin flushing, high blood sugar levels, heart, and liver problems.

High doses of B6 can cause sensitivity to light, nerve damage, and painful skin lesions.

Dangers of Vitamin Supplements Exceeding Recommended Doses of Mineral Supplements

Mineral supplements can also be dangerous. Even if you are just increasing some of your mineral intact by a small amount, this could cause an imbalance in the ability of the body to use other types of minerals.

For example, an intake of more than just 5 times the recommended doses of supplements such as iron, chromium, zinc or selenium can result in a catastrophic event for your body.

Almost every kind of vitamin and mineral can end up being toxic if you take too much.

Excess iron intake causes nausea and vomiting and may also damage the liver and other organs.

Conclusion – Dangers of Vitamin Supplements

There are inherent dangers of vitamin supplements if the recommended daily dose is exceeded. Although vitamins and other supplements are generally beneficial, it is always a good idea to consult your healthcare provider before investing in any of them for your use.

Related Articles


Dietary Supplements: What You Need to Know. Fact Sheet for Consumers https://ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/WYNTK-Consumer/

Marc A. Ellsworth et al (2014) Acute Liver Failure Secondary to Niacin Toxicity Case Rep Pediatr. 2014: 692530. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3965920/

Misha F Vrolijk et al (2017) The vitamin B6 paradox: Supplementation with high concentrations of pyridoxine leads to decreased vitamin B6 function Toxicol In Vitro;44:206-212 https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/28716455/

Wikipedia. Dietary Supplement https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dietary_supplement

10 thoughts on “Dangers of Vitamin Supplements – A Seniors Nightmare”

  1. Yes, it’s better to consult your healthcare provider or doctor before consuming dietary or vitamin supplements. I take vitamin B every time I feel exhausted at work, but I never exceed the recommended daily amount. As for vitamin C, I only have them when I get headaches, or I have symptoms like the flu. If people use them properly, vitamin supplements help. If people take too much, it brings danger to our bodies.

    Thanks for sharing. 🙂

  2. Hi, I don’t take a lot of vitamins but I know that at my age “early seniors” I should take care of myself a little more than I do right now.
    I like this post it’s very informative. I’m going to pin your site on my search bar, you have a lot of good info here. Thank you for sharing

  3. Beautiful post, Ceci, very interesting!
    Many people underestimate the danger of taking excessive amounts of vitamins-
    Our body is a perfect machine and should not be overloaded!
    As the wise men said, “It is the dose that makes the poison”, so even with vitamin supplements you need to be sparing, especially at a certain age!

    • Thanks Miriam,
      I love your quote – “It is the dose that makes the poison”. It is important to realize that too much of a good thing may be bad, or really bad for you!!


  4. We are glad that you made a article pertaining to supplements and vitamins and dietary pills, there is a difference between them two. Understanding the the two can help see where the problems occurs and becomes an issue for senior citizens. My wife works as a traveling nurse and sees the concerns as an aid that the seniors suffer from.


    • Yes, Matthew/Deloris many do not know the difference between vitamins, supplements and dietary pills, and this is what causes issues especially in cases of self-medication as many would do!

      Thanks, Ceci

  5. Hi Ceci,

    Interesting post on the potential dangers of vitamin supplements. I believe the most important point you make is, if you’re unsure, then consult your doctor before taking any vitamins to avoid any potential negative effects from taking too much of a certain vitamin or mineral.

    Doctors can also test your bloods to check for deficiencies, so again, if you’re unsure, speak with your doctor to avoid any potential dangers of taking too much of a vitamin/mineral.


    • Thanks for the comment Rob!

      Uncertainty about any supplement requires that you consult your doctor first. This article is for informational purposes only. Always keep in mind that while all effort is made to provide currently available information on the subject, research continues to bring new findings, sometimes on a daily basis.



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