When over-supplementing can harm your bones

You’ve heard all about the supplements you should take to protect your bones — calcium, vitamin D, vitamin K.

But what about the supplements you should avoid to protect them?

You see, even though supplements do amazing things for your health, they can also put you in harm’s way… especially when you’re taking the wrong dosage.

And if you overdo one particular supplement, you could pay with your bone health…

The vitamin that puts your bones in jeopardy

Too much vitamin A is bad news for your bones. Here’s why…

Excess amounts of this otherwise healthy vitamin can increase your risk of bone fracture. And bone fractures put you at risk for mobility issues and an early death… especially as you get older.

Several studies prove that there’s a connection between excess vitamin A and bad bones. But the most recent one came from researchers at the University of Gothenburg in Sweden.

These researchers found that mice who take too much vitamin A have weaker, thinner bones.

Mice in the study took vitamin A dosages that were equivalent to 4.5 to 13 times the human recommended daily allowance. After just eight days, their bones started thinning. And it only got worse during the ten-week study period.

Since this isn’t the first study to connect vitamin A to bad bone health, scientists already have a theory why extra vitamin A is bad for your bones…

They believe that too much vitamin A causes the body to produce more cells that break down bone (known as osteoclasts). They also think that excess vitamin A may prevent the body from absorbing vitamin D properly. And vitamin D is essential to healthy bones.

Should you stop taking vitamin A supplements?

Does that mean vitamin A supplements are dangerous? It might. It depends on the dosage.

Personally, I’d rather get my vitamin A from food instead of supplements just in case.

If you feel the same way, here’s what you need to know to get enough vitamin A from food alone…

There are two types of vitamin A — retinol and beta-carotene. Retinol is found in animal products. Beta-carotene is found in plant products. Retinol is the kind of vitamin A that causes bone problems.

Related: The other vitamin that stole my disease-fighting D

Adult men are supposed to get 3,000 International Units (IU) of retinol per day, and adult women are supposed to get 2,310 International Units (IU) of retinol per day. You can easily get that from foods like:

  • Beef liver (3 oz.) (30,325 IU)
  • Chicken liver (3 oz.) (13,920 IU)
  • An egg (280 IU)
  • Cheddar cheese (1 oz.) (300 IU)
  • Whole milk (1 cup) (305 IU)
  • Cheese pizza (⅛ of a 12-inch pie) (380 IU)

Even if you’re not taking a vitamin A supplement specifically, there might be vitamin A in other supplements you’re taking, like your multivitamin. So, take an honest assessment of all the vitamin A you’re getting throughout your day. And if it seems like you’re overdoing it, scale back for the sake of healthy bones.

  1. Too much vitamin A may increase risk of bone fractures — MedicalXpress
  2. Clinically relevant doses of vitamin A decrease cortical bone mass in miceJournal of Endocrinology
  3. Vitamin A and Bone Health — National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases
Jenny Smiechowski

By Jenny Smiechowski

Jenny Smiechowski is a Chicago-based freelance writer who specializes in health, nutrition and the environment. Her work has appeared in online and print publications like Chicagoland Gardening magazine, Organic Lifestyle Magazine, BetterLife Magazine, TheFix.com, Hybridcars.com and Seedstock.com.