Vitamins and minerals are micronutrients that are responsible for many life-sustaining biological processes. While most people can get enough from diet alone, others may need to take a supplement. However, to ensure safety, they should do so under the guidance of a doctor or registered dietitian.
Each vitamin and mineral plays a different role in bodily processes. For example, sodium and potassium are crucial for proper function of the central nervous system.
Consuming enough of the required vitamins and minerals is an essential part of eating a balanced diet.
Although a varied diet usually provides the micronutrients a person needs, some people with restrictive diets — such as vegetarians, people with certain medical conditions, and older adults — may need to take a supplement.
Read more to learn how much of each vitamin and mineral an individual should consume, which micronutrients are harmful when a person consumes them in excess, and what common deficiencies there are.
Daily intake of vitamins and minerals
Each person’s dietary needs will vary slightly, but it can be useful to have benchmark numbers for vitamin and mineral intake as a point of reference.
The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) sets out guidelines for the amounts of different vitamins and minerals an individual should consume per day. It uses recommended Daily Value (DV)Trusted Source, which applies to mostTrusted Source healthy people.
However, individual nutrient needs will vary depending on many factors. These may include a person’s age, body weight, overall health, and whether they are pregnant or breastfeeding.
Definitions of terms
While DV can be a useful starting point, it is not the only term experts use to describe how much of something an individual should consume.
Researchers, dietitians, manufacturers, and government bodies use different abbreviations. This can make reading nutritional labels challenging.
Below are common termsTrusted Source a person may encounter when reading food or supplement labels:
- DV: This abbreviation is often present on food packaging. It indicates the recommended amount of a certain nutrient to consume each day.
- Recommended Daily Allowance (RDA): This is the recommended intake of nutrients that meets the nutritional requirements of most healthy people. RDA is usuallyTrusted Source the same as the DV.
- Adequate Intake (AI): When researchers do not have enough evidence to calculate an RDA of a specific nutrient, they will make an estimation reflecting most recent research.
- Tolerable Upper Intake Level (UL): This indicates the maximum amount a person can consume without experiencing adverse effects.
- Dietary Reference Intake (DRI): This is a general term that includes RDA, AI, and UL.
Can a person consume too much of vitamins and minerals?
In most cases, people will not consume too much of a particular vitamin or mineral, especially when they are getting it from food.
Overconsumption usuallyTrusted Source happens when an individual takes a nutritional supplement. Vitamin and mineral toxicity is rare, and it only occurs when a person consumes a certain nutrient in very large amounts.
It is important to note that not all vitamins and minerals are harmful when a person consumes them in excess.
Water-soluble vitamins dissolve in water, so when a person consumes too much of these, the body usually gets rid of the excess in the urine. Vitamin C and B vitamins are all water-soluble.
However, fat-soluble vitamins dissolveTrusted Source in fat and oils. This means that fatty tissues and the liver store them, and they can build up over time. In some cases, they could reach toxic levels. This is particularly commonTrusted Source in people who consume too many fat-soluble vitamins.
Not all fat-soluble vitamins are harmful when an individual consumes them in large amounts. For instance, it is generally safeTrusted Source to consume a surplus of vitamin, although people should avoid consuming megadoses of this vitamin over long periods of time.
Consuming excess amounts of certain minerals, such as calcium, magnesium, zinc, and selenium, can causeTrusted Source adverse effects.
Side effects of excessive consumption
Usually, mineral or vitamin overconsumption results from excessive intake of a certain micronutrient through the use of multivitamins or supplements.
When someone consistently exceeds the DV of certain vitamins and minerals, they may experience some side effects. The body uses each micronutrient differently, and therefore each can cause different symptoms.
Common deficiencies of vitamins
Some vitamin and mineral deficiencies are particularly common. Some of these includeTrusted Source:
- vitamin C
Most people can get these vitamins and minerals from a varied, balanced diet, which includes fruit, vegetables, whole grains, lean meat, healthy fats, and dairy products.
However, there are many reasons a person may not be able to get the nutrients they need through diet alone.
The following could contribute to inadequate nutrient intake or absorption:
- certain medications
- some medical conditions
In these cases, people may needTrusted Source to take a supplement to meet the DV of certain nutrients.
Contacting a doctor
If someone thinks their consumption of specific vitamins or minerals is either too high or too low, they should consult a doctor.
A simple vitamin and nutrition blood or urine test can help determine Trusted Source which micronutrients a person is lacking. A doctor can then provide guidance on which supplements are suitable for the individual to take. The doctor may also refer them to a dietitian for nutritional assistance.
The FDA sets out guidelines on how much of each vitamin and mineral a person should consume per day. Health experts refer to this as DV.
While most people can meet these values through food alone, individuals following restrictive diets or with certain health conditions may need to take dietary supplements.