According to data from AIOCD – AWACS, chemists across India sold 171 crore tablets of vitamin C in 2020. The sale of multivitamin tablets in India increased by 185 crores in 2020 when compared to 2019. That’s a hundred percent increase in sales.
(AIOCD is the All India Organisation of Chemists and Druggists and 8.5 Lakh chemists across India are a part of this organisation.)
The sale of multivitamins and immunity boosters rose rapidly during the COVID-19 pandemic as people began to look upon these as a sort of protection against the virus. Since a deficiency of zinc began to be linked to increased risk of COVID-19, the sale of zinc tablets also skyrocketed. The sale of vitamin C rose owing to its link to stronger immunity.
It’s not wrong to take these supplements. Our regular food intake often falls severely short of providing these vital micronutrients to us. However, taking the right quantities of these supplements becomes important as too much of a good thing can be a bad thing.
Johanna Dwyer, MD, a senior research scientist at National Institute of Health (Office of Dietary Supplements) acknowledges that there are no benefits from taking excessive amounts of vitamins and minerals. There could even be some harmful effects of taking very high doses and it is important to educate ourselves about this.
It is important to consult a doctor about the right dosage for you before you take vitamin supplements.
How do I know how much to take?
The actual dosage depends on the composition of the supplement you are using, and your overall health.
Large doses of multivitamins and minerals can have harmful side-effects. Check the label on the bottle or the strip for the advised dosage. When in doubt, consult a doctor before you take supplements.
If you suffer from specific allergies or health issues, you need to consult a doctor before you take any supplements.
What are the possible side-effects from zinc and multivitamin supplements?
If you develop rashes, breathing difficulty, or swelling on your face, lips, tongue or throat, you need to consult a doctor immediately.
Minerals (especially in large doses), can cause side-effects like blurred vision, increased urination, abnormal heart rate, confusion and muscle-weakness.
More common side-effects include, headache and stomach ache.
If taken in the recommended dosage, no side-effects are expected from the intake of multivitamins.
Is it safe to take multivitamins and zinc supplements when pregnant or breastfeeding?
It’s important to speak with your doctor before taking any supplements. The answer might depend on other medication you are already on, your present & past medical condition, specific allergies etc.
During pregnancy, the recommended dosage for such supplements might vary.
Your doctor might advise you to take supplements specially designed for prenatal use.
Guidelines for taking vitamin and mineral supplements:
- Take it as per the dosage prescribed on the label and for the period of time recommended by your doctor. Do not take it for longer than the duration suggested by your doctor.
- Use water to wash down tablets. Avoid using dairy products like milk, or other caffeinated products like coffee.
- If the supplement is in chewable form, then do not swallow it but chew it thoroughly.
- Use accurate measurement for liquid supplements, to avoid larger doses than required.
- If the supplement is in dissolvable form, then use the right amount of water to dissolve it as directed. This mixture is to be consumed immediately.
- Do not crush tablets or open capsules before consumption. They are to be swallowed whole.
- Keep the medicines away from moisture and heat.
- Store the medicines in their original packaging. Changing containers may increase risk of reaction from the material of the new container.
Taking too many vitamin and mineral supplements
Overdosing on multivitamins and zinc can lead to the following symptoms:
- Increased thirst or urination
- Severe stomach pain
- Blood in stools
- Hair loss
- Flaking of skin
- Tingling sensation in and around the mouth
- Changes in your menstrual cycle
- Severe headache
- Weight loss
- Blood in urine
- Discolouration of skin
- Easy bruising of skin
- Slow heart rate
- Severe drowsiness
- Shallow breathing
- Weak and fast pulse
- Muscle weakness
- Cold and clammy skin
- Swelling and blueness in lips
Excessive consumption of zinc can lead to nose bleed.
Do these supplements prevent COVID-19?
Some studies have found that a combination of vitamin C and zinc supplements can reduce the symptoms of common cold. The effectiveness of this combination on COVID-19 and similar respiratory tract infections is not yet known.