UK Food Standards Agency Issues New Advice on Safety of High Doses of Vitamins and Minerals

Thursday, 08 May 2003
New advice on vitamins and minerals that could have possible harmful effects if taken in too high a dose is published today by the Food Standards Agency.

The amounts of most vitamins and minerals that people take are not thought to be harmful, but the Agency is now advising the public on what levels of supplements are unlikely to cause any harm.

The Agency is advising people not to take chromium picolinate and has consulted on a proposal to ban the use of this form of chromium in the manufacture of food supplements because there is a chance that it could cause cancer.

Having 10 mg or less a day of chromium in other forms from food and supplements is unlikely to cause any harm.

Some substances may have irreversible harmful effects if taken for long periods at the highest supplemental doses. These include beta-carotene (especially for smokers and people who have been exposed to asbestos), nicotinic acid, zinc, manganese (especially for older people) and phosphorus.

Levels of vitamin C above 1000 mg a day could cause abdominal pain and diarrhoea. Similarly, high intakes of calcium (above 1500 mg a day) and iron (above 17 mg a day) may result in similar symptoms in some people. However, these symptoms should disappear once people stop taking the supplements.

The Agency is also re-emphasising its advice that people should not take more than 10 mg a day of vitamin B6 from food supplements unless acting on medical advice. Taking large amounts for a long time can lead to a loss of feeling in the arms and legs. Generally these symptoms are reversible but in a few cases the effect has been irreversible.

This advice follows the publication of the report of the Expert Group on Vitamins and Minerals (EVM), an independent expert advisory committee, that has made recommendations on 31 vitamins and minerals.

The EVM has assessed the available evidence on safety, in response to concern over possible risks of taking high doses of vitamins and minerals.

New FSA advice on safety of high doses of vitamins and minerals

Safe upper levels for vitamins and minerals:
Report of the Expert Group on Vitamins and Minerals (

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