If you're a big believer in vitamins and dietary supplements, you may want to take a closer look at exactly what you’re taking. A new Consumer Reports investigation found some surprising dangers with the over-the-counter nutritional aids that are largely unregulated by the FDA.
Nearly half of all Americans take some kind of nutritional supplement, but there are some risks that are coming to light. In the last five years, the FDA has received more than 6,000 reports of serious health problems resulting from common over the counter products. When looking at the rows and rows of vitamins and supplements at any pharmacy or grocery store, it's hard not to think healthier living can come straight from a bottle of pills.
"I haven't been eating very well lately for quite awhile so I think taking vitamins would be beneficial to make sure my body receives the vitamins that's required," said potential vitamin customer Ronnie Cohen.
But is there such a thing as overdosing on vitamins? Both the FDA and pharmacists with San Dimas Pharmacy in Bakersfield say yes and mega-doses of some vitamins can cause serious health problems.
"Vitamin A overdosing can cause ringing in the ears, blurred vision, nausea, irritability. Vitamin D can raise your blood pressure and cholesterol levels as well as cause deafness. Vitamin E can cause breast tenderness and hyper tension also," said Kalpana Patel, owner of San Dimas Pharmacy.
Some of the most alarming concerns come from dietary supplements. Many products available over the counter may contain some prescription drugs not found on the warning label and can cause serious reactions with other doctor-prescribed medications.
"A lot of the vitamins or the supplements will contain a lot of the same vitamins. A lot of them will contain extra A. So basically if you total the amount of vitamins they are taking because of the various supplements, even the herbal supplements, you will find out they are taking way too much," Patel said.
Since 2008, the FDA has recalled more than 400 dietary supplements from store shelves but the products that are still available aren't required to have warning labels.
The best way to keep yourself safe, health officials say check with your doctor or pharmacist first before trying a new product.
"Take a brown bag, fill it up with your medications, take which ever supplements you may think you need and let us look at them and make sure you're safe taking them," Patel said.
Health officials say in most cases, a well-balanced diet will get you all the vitamins you need.
For more information on the Consumer Reports investigation, you can click here