How Much Is Too Much? continued...
For instance, the average person can take more than 50 times the RDA of vitamin B6 without reaching the upper limit. But some people develop symptoms of nerve pain with these higher levels of B6. So you should always be cautious. Here are some things to keep in mind:
Some supplements are riskier than others. With some vitamins and minerals, the upper limit is pretty close to the RDA. So it's easy to get too much. For example, a man who takes just over three times the RDA of vitamin A would get more than the upper limit. High doses of vitamin A -- and other fat-soluble vitamins like E and K -- can build up in the body and become toxic. Other risky supplements include the minerals iron and selenium.
Supplements are designed to be additions to your diet. Popping pills is not the answer to good health. Experts say you should eat a well-balanced diet and take supplements to fill in any nutritional gaps. Or you can take a once-daily multivitamin with minerals for nutritional insurance.
The UL is often the limit for all sources of a nutrient. It can include the amount you get from both food and supplements. So when you figure out whether you've reached the UL on a particular nutrient, take into account the food you eat.
You won't find the UL on food nutrition labels or on your vitamin bottle. It's not a number that most people know about. But you'll see it on government web sites. And there's a complete list of nutrients with ULs at the end of this article.
Most supplements don't have a UL -- or RDA or DV. The government has only set levels for a fraction of the vitamins and supplements available. For most of the supplements you see on the shelves, experts really don't know the ideal or maximum dose.
Many nutrients, in too high a dose, can be dangerous. To be on the safe side, steer clear of the UL for any nutrient. And if you have a health condition, check with your doctor before you take supplements. He can tell you if they have side effects or interfere with other medicines you use.