Vitamin Pills: Popping Too Many?

Americans are popping more vitamins than ever before

By Jeanie Lerche Davis
WebMD Weight Loss Clinic

Reviewed By Cynthia Dennison Haines, MD

A morning multivitamin. A couple of E's. Maybe some C. A protein shake for lunch. A calcium pill or two, later in the day. We've come a long way since our Flintstones days. But are Americans overdoing it?

It's true, vitamin-fortified foods are flying off store shelves. Even orange juice comes with calcium and vitamin D. Energy bars, meal-replacement drinks, protein shakes, cereal bars, cereal itself -- all claim lots of vitamins and minerals, up to 100% of the recommended daily allowance (RDA).

Then, too, specially blended multivitamins -- with hot new "additives" such as green tea -- are nearly irresistible to health nuts.

But you do the math: You could be getting up to 500% of the RDA, maybe more, in one day's time -- up to five times what your body needs. Are we toting up toxic levels of vitamins? Or throwing our money away?

Experts Weigh In

Chris Rosenbloom, PhD, RD, professor of nutrition at Georgia State University in Atlanta, counsels plenty of people who are overdoing it.

"If you're eating two energy bars a day, plus a protein shake that is vitamin fortified, plus taking vitamin supplements, you don't need all that," says Rosenbloom.

But most people still aren't getting the right vitamins despite their best efforts, says Jeffrey Blumberg, PhD, professor of nutrition at Tufts University in Boston. "Most people need a multivitamin as 'insurance.' Everybody needs to eat more healthfully. While you're trying to get there, take supplements."