"...all doctors should be able to diagnose and treat nutritional deficiencies."

Royal College of Physicians. Nutrition and Patients: A Doctor's Responsibility. London 2002

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This page has been printed from the www.stewartnutrition.co.uk web site.


What Determines the Safety of Nutritional Supplements?

The factors that determine the potential for harm resulting from use of a nutritional supplement fall into two categories:

  • Excessive Intake
     - acute toxicity due to a massive intake (very rare)
     - chronic toxicity due to a moderately excessive intake from supplements, food or water
        which causes no adverse effects in the short term
  • Predisposing Factors
     - increased  risk due to the individual’s consumption of alcohol, cigarettes and drugs
     - underlying disease especially liver or renal problems which limit the excretion of any
        excess
     - increasing age of the person altering the balance between benefit and risk
     - genetic factors that alter the metabolism of the nutrient
     - specific interactions with prescription or over-the-counter drugs
        the consumption of prescription drugs was identified as a risk factor for adverse
        reactions to nutritional supplements in a large telephone survey of US citizens
     - sensitivity to the nutrient resulting in an allergic reaction (very rare)

The majority of serious adverse reactions to nutritional supplements can be avoided if a little common sense and caution are used.

Adverse reactions to nutritional supplements that involve chronic toxicity can pass through a number of stages from adequacy to, rarely, death in a similar manner to the evolution of nutritional deficiencies.  Stages of increased intake, increase in tissue stores and then organ dysfunction are the corollary of the stages in the development of a nutritional deficiency [internal link]

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Copyright Dr. Alan Stewart M.B.B.S.M.R.C.P. (UK)M.F. Hom.
47 Priory Street, Lewes, East Sussex. BN7 1HJ
Tel 01273 487003 Fax: 01273 487576