Supplement Actions & Interactions

spoon-full-of-vitaminsThe potential for vitamin toxicity is real. Most Americans believe that vitamins and other supplements are safe. That’s true if they are used correctly. Too many people still think that if one is good, ten is better. Especially alarming is the scenario in which a well-meaning mother tells her youngster to chew his daily animal-shaped gummy vitamin because it’s good for him and will make him grow to be big and strong, like Daddy.  Junior doesn’t know that ten is not better, climbs up to the counter, struggles to open the bottle, and eats a handful of vitamins. If the vitamins are made from food the worry is minor, but still there. If synthetic, like most, the danger for an adverse reaction is much greater and becomes a medical emergency.  Fat-soluble vitamins have a higher potential for poisoning because they can accumulate in the body, but there is comfort knowing that, even with more than 71,000 vitamin overdose reports to poison control centers in 2010, no one ever died from a vitamin excess (Bronstein, 2011). The actual number is 71,545 out of 2,784,907, representing about 2.5% of all exposures. The medical community that reviewed total toxic exposures ruled vitamins to be safe.

Antioxidants: Vitamin A
Vitamin A is a group of fat-soluble substances called retinoids, including retinol, retinal, retinoic acid and retinyl esters that are involved in immunity, vision, reproduction, and cellular communication. As an essential component of rhodopsin, vitamin A is critical for vision. Since it supports healthy cell growth and division, it is likewise important to the heart, lungs, kidneys, and other organs. This nutrient exists in two forms. Pre-formed vitamin A is called retinol, found mostly in animal foods and converted to the metabolically active forms known as retinal and retinoic acid. The other form of vitamin A is the provitamin carotenoid, beta-carotene, although other carotenes exist as alpha-carotene and beta-cryptoxanthin, all of which are converted to vitamin A and metabolized to retinal and retinoic acid. All forms of the vitamin are made into micelles and are absorbed by the duodenum. In a cascade of metabolic events, retinol is converted to retinal and then to retinoic acid. Much of the vitamin A from food comes as retinol. About one third of the dietary source comes from plants, especially grains, oils, and green and yellow fruits and vegetables, such as carrots and pumpkin.

Because the liver maintains vitamin A levels within a narrow window, overdose is possible by overzealous supplementation, and can be serious in children. But that does not exempt adults from the hazard. Intake of much more than 1.5 milligrams of supplemental A each day (5000 IU), particularly of preformed vitamin A, can backfire and reduce bone mineral density by as much as 10% in the femur and 6% for the total body, thereby increasing risk for hip fractures (Melhus, 1998). But vitamin A precursors are not totally exculpated (Feskanich, 2002). Observational studies on retinol conclude that total vitamin A intake is more important than the source, whether from supplements or from foods, and that twice the current RDA (3000 IU or 900 mcg for adults) is enough to compromise bone integrity (Crandall, 2004). The Brazilians noted an increase in risk of skeletal fractures when intake of dietary vitamin A from retinol was excessive, as bone resorption was stimulated and bone formation inhibited (Genaro, 2004).

Nutrition Labels Have a Purpose
Good intentions are insufficient to ward off the throes of taking too much of a supplement, whether alone or as part of a multi-vitamin or other complex. This is why you need to read labels of all the supplement bottles you open. If each bottle contains a little bit of the same nutrient, you need to add the numbers to arrive at the value you swallow, lest you take too much and possibly suffer harm. Water-soluble nutrients are not usually the problem; fat-soluble ones are. High doses of vitamin A over long periods of time, regardless of source, can antagonize vitamin K and reduce its effectiveness as a clotting agent and cause internal hemorrhage (Grubbs, 1985). Most people don’t monitor vitamin K intake from supplements. Neither do they watch how many green leafy vegetables they eat to account for vitamin K supply. Except for that prescribed by a medical doctor, high doses of vitamin A means taking more than twice the daily recommendation.

Deficiencies of nutrients often parallel one another. Low zinc levels limit the bioavailability of vitamin A, regardless of how much is ingested (Rahman, 2992).  Iron deficiency is a known cause of anemia. In the absence of ample vitamin A stores, even supplemental iron is inhibited despite its enhanced hematological response by vitamin C (Fishman, 2000). Certain foods can inhibit or facilitate supplemental nutrient uptake and absorption, too. In the presence of fiber, vitamin A absorption is enhanced (Kasper, 1979).

Vitamin A and Your Liver
Because vitamin A is handled by the liver, anything that burdens that organ might contribute to problems down the line. Acetaminophen is notorious for causing liver damage, even fatalities, and  amiodarone, carbamazepine, methotrexate, and a slew of other drugs can cause liver concerns in the presence of excess vitamin A. Taking 25,000 IU of vitamin A daily for several months will turn your eyes and skin yellow and, for a pregnant, woman, can cause birth defects (Hathcock, 1990). Mixing vitamin A, often prescribed for acne, with tetracycline antibiotic prescribed for the same condition can cause intracranial hypertension with resultant headaches, nausea and vomiting, as well as pulsate tinnitus and vision symptoms (Walters, 1981). Heaven forbid you take an Rx blood thinner and overdo the vitamin A at levels greater than 10,000 IU a day.  Vitamin K will be antagonized and hemorrhage becomes a possibility (Hardman, 1996).

When it comes to fat-soluble vitamins, be careful not to overdo it. Although toxicity is relatively rare, is it especially possible in the elderly, chronic alcohol users and those with a genetic predisposition to high cholesterol (Russell, 2000). Avoid taking more than the RDA of pre-formed vitamin A (retinol) during pregnancy, being alert to fortification of food and counting it as part of daily intake. Synthetic derivatives, such as those used to treat skin conditions (Accutane, Retin-A) either orally or topically are no less dangerous merely because they come from a pharmacist. The terms “acetate” and “palmitate” describe preformed vitamin A. Although beta-carotene is safer, use common sense.


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*These statements have not been evaluated by the FDA.
These products are not intended to treat, diagnose, cure, or prevent any disease.

Electromagnetic Headaches

emf-headachesWhen it blows in the wind, we try to find out where it’s coming from. Once in a while, though, there’s so much stench we can’t identify the source. Such is the case with electromagnetic fields—EMF’s— and related wavy things. There’s so much hullabaloo about the good and the bad that we can’t decide if EMF’s are, well, good or bad. They’ve been around forever, so exposure to them is nothing new. Man-made EMF’s, from the generation of electricity, household appliances, industrial equipment and, of course, telecommunications and broadcasting, add to the apparent physiological burden already begun by the simplicity of human metabolism and Earth’s magnetic properties. Is it really a big deal?

Tiny electric currents exist in the body because of the chemistry that allows it to work, even in the absence of external electrical fields. Nerves, for example, send signals by transmitting electrical impulses. All our biochemical reactions follow the rearrangement of charged particles. Your heart responds to an electrocardiogram, right? The concern is that low-frequency electrical fields affect the human body just as they affect anything else made from charged particles. These exogenous fields, if large enough, can cause changes inside the body by stimulating nerves or muscles…or organs. Lucky for us, most exogenous currents are too small to have any ill effect, even directly beneath a high voltage transmission line. On the other hand, the biological effect of radiofrequency fields is heating, and this is the reason for scientific intervention in the placement of sources, such as phone towers.

Biological effects are measurable responses to a stimulus or to a change in the environment. Most of these are harmless, like listening to music or exercising. Changes that are irreversible or that persist for a long time might not be harmless. Electromagnetic fields above a certain level present a concern. That is understandable, and measures are taken to limit exposure, even internationally. Lower levels, over the long term, are suspected of causing unwanted biological responses, including headaches, to which some people are more or less sensitive. Cases of hypersensitivity to EMF’s have been reported for a few decades. Some researchers group them with the condition known as multiple chemical sensitivity illness. Oddly, a plethora of those reporting such sensitivity seem to fall into categories that defy characterization (Levallois, 2002). In polls and surveys, people will express a concern about the ill effects of EMF’s in the absence of personal symptoms, worrying that their cell phones may eventually cause sleep disturbances and headaches (Schreier, 2006) (Hillert, 2002).

Cell phones emit waves as long as they’re turned on and are looking for a signal from the tower. Wi-Fi, not necessarily related to wireless fidelity, contains that technology which connects electronic devices to each other and to the internet using radio waves. Some investigators claim that both can interfere with a child’s ability to learn and remember, while others feel that autistic spectrum conditions are likewise related (Herbert, 2013, parts 1 and 2). If the pharmaceutical powers control a considerable part of the economy, they deserve credit for telling us in their TV spiels that the side effects of their products are worse than the diseases they purport to treat. Powerful industrial entities have an interest in leading the unsuspecting public to believe their EMF’s are completely harmless, since they cannot be perceived by the senses, including pain receptors. If, as suspected, DNA damage actually results from EMF-induced oxidative stress, physiologic consequences can be expected and headaches to be the presentation (Wolf, 2005). Children are exposed to EMF’s at home, on the school bus, in the classroom, at the doctor’s office, and probably everywhere else, with few exceptions, if any. Cell phone standards, by the way, were established years ago and have not been revisited. We are unsure of their effects on developing brains, but, by looking at students’ academic orientation, we can guess. Most European nations forbid the sale of cell phones to those under eighteen.

Cause-effect situations are more definitive than associations or relations. Pathologies that may be associated with EMF’s are not definitely caused by them. Therefore, compared to other disease vectors, little is being done to address possibilities of EMF involvement. Some reports indicate the blood-brain barrier to become more permeable after exposure to EMF’s (Leszczynski, 2002), even from fellow riders in a public conveyance (Kato, 2012). That we are constantly bombarded with radiation is a concern of WHO and the children’s health expert panel (WHO, 2011) (ICNIRP, 2009), (IEEE, 2005). But that concern is magnified because mobile phones work close to the head, causing the distribution of energy to be direct. This raises the question of relationships/associations to glioma and neuroma (Hours, 2007) (Schüz, 2006) naturally requiring closer inspection. Because of subjectivity, no determination is possible (Cardis, 2010), although hints are numerous (Cardis, 2011).

Cancer aside, the headache issue is a global topic. In many countries, about a fourth of cell phone users polled associate headache with EMF (Thamire, 2004) (Meg, 2005) (Al-Khlaiwi, 2004) (Genius, 2012) (Kato, 2012) (Schreier, 2006). Yet, until asked, none relates the two. Talking on a mobile phone for one hour a day incurs the cumulative effect that upsets homeostasis, allowing for exposure to ten thousand watts of accrued radiation. A microwave oven emits only 2 milliwatts at two inches distance; a hundredth of that at twenty inches (FDA, 2011).

We all know that lifestyle can’t be dictated. Smokers smoke and drinkers drink.Second-hand smoke is a health matter. There is no such thing as second-hand drinkingexcept to a fetus. But there is such a thing as second-hand radiation. We seemto prefer first-hand.


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Electromagnetic fields and public health: mobile phones
Fact sheet N°193. June 2011

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*These statements have not been evaluated by the FDA.
These products are not intended to treat, diagnose, cure, or prevent any disease.