Can You Really Overdose on Vitamins?

Vitamins in bottles

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Vitamins are essential for your health, but you only need them in small amounts and you should be able to get plenty of the foods you eat. But can you get too much of any one vitamin?

Yes, absolutely. While it's nearly impossible to get too much of any vitamin from eating foods, you can overdose on some vitamins if you take large doses of supplements for extended periods of time.

Why It's Possible to Overdose on Vitamins

Most of the vitamin supplements you see on store shelves are sold in dosages that won't cause problems as long as you follow the label directions. But sometimes people take much larger amounts, called "mega-doses" of vitamins, hoping the supplements will help prevent or treat specific health problems.

There are two problems with taking mega-doses of vitamins. First, there's rarely any scientific reason to take massive amounts of any vitamin (and then only under the guidance of your medical doctor), so you're probably just wasting money.

Second, you can actually develop health problems if you mega-dose with some vitamins. Usually, the problems are reversible if you stop taking the mega-doses, but not always, so if you realize you've been taking a vitamin in a large dose, please contact your doctor right away.

Which Vitamins Are Dangerous in Large Doses?

The Food and Nutrition Board of the Health and Medicine Division of the National Academies of Science, Engineering, and Medicine has established Tolerable Upper Intake Levels (UL) for all vitamins and minerals. The UL is the highest level of daily intake of a nutrient that's not going to pose any risks to a healthy person. Here's a look at the ULs for all the vitamins and what can happen if you take too much.

Vitamin A

Vitamin A is essential for normal vision, cell development, and immune system function. Adults need about 700 to 900 micrograms (mcg) per day, and it's found in liver, fish, meat, dairy products, and colorful fruits and veggies.

The UL for vitamin A by age: 

  • 0 to 3 years old: 600mcg
  • 4 to 8 years old: 900mcg
  • 9 to 13 years old: 1,700mcg
  • 14 to 18 years old: 2,800mcg
  • Adults: 3,000mcg

Since Vitamin A is a fat-soluble vitamin, it's easy for your body to store so it can accumulate over time. Long-term intakes of excessive amounts of vitamin A can cause intracranial pressure, dizziness, nausea, liver damage, headaches, rash, pain in your joints and bones, coma, and even death. 

Vitamin C

Vitamin C is needed for strong connective tissue and immune system function. It's also an antioxidant that can help prevent damage from free radicals. The average adult needs about 75 to 90 milligrams (mg) per day. Vitamin C is found in many fruits and vegetables, but people often take vitamin C supplements hoping they'll help ward off colds and flu.

ULs for Vitamin C by age:

  • 0 to 12 months: unknown
  • 1 to 3 years old: 400mg
  • 4 to 8 years old: 650mg
  • 9 to 13 years old: 1,200mg
  • 14 to 18 years old: 1,800mg
  • Adults: 2,000mg

Taking large amounts of vitamin C isn't life-threatening, but it can cause diarrhea, nausea, and abdominal cramps and has been linked to kidney stones. 

Vitamin D

Vitamin D helps your body absorb and utilize calcium, so if you don't get enough vitamin D you run the risk of weakened bones and osteoporosis, among other things. Most adults need 600 International Units (IU) every day.

You don't get much vitamin D from food, but your body makes it after your skin is exposed to sunlight. Vitamin D is a popular supplement, but you can get too much if you mega-dose every day.

The ULs for Vitamin D by age:

  • 0 to 6 months: 1,000 IU
  • 7 to 12 months: 1,500 IU
  • 1 to 3 years old: 2,500 IU
  • 4 to 8 years old: 3,000 IU
  • 9+ years old: 4,000 IU

Taking too much vitamin D in the form of supplements can raise your blood levels of calcium, which can be bad for your heart and kidneys. You won't get too much vitamin D from excessive sun exposure, and it's extremely difficult to get too much vitamin D from your diet. An adult needs about 15 mg per day.

Vitamin E

Your body needs vitamin E for normal immune system function, and it also works as an antioxidant and helps prevent blood clots from forming in your blood vessels. It's found in a variety of foods, but mostly in nuts, seeds, and green vegetables. The average adult needs about 15mg per day.

The ULs for Vitamin E by age:

  • 0 to 6 months: unknown
  • 7 to 12 months: unknown
  • 1 to 3 years old: 200mg
  • 4 to 8 years old: 300mg
  • 9 to 13 years old: 600mg
  • 14 to 18 years old: 800mg
  • Adults: 1,000mg

Taking too much vitamin E can increase your risk of bleeding, which is especially important if you're at an increased risk of stroke or take blood-thinning medications.


Niacin helps convert the foods you eat into the energy your body needs to do everything you do. Deficiency is rare because it's found in a large variety of foods, but it's also sold as a supplement that's often used to manage cholesterol levels. 

The ULs for Niacin by age:

  • 0 to 6 months: unknown
  • 7 to 12 months: unknown
  • 1 to 3 years old: 10mg
  • 4 to 8 years old: 15mg
  • 9 to 13 years old: 20mg
  • 14 to 18 years old: 30mg
  • Adults: 35mg

Taking large amounts of niacin can lead to liver damage and affect blood sugar levels in people who have diabetes. In the short term, taking a large dose of niacin causes a niacin flush, which while not harmful, is uncomfortable and can be scary.

Vitamin B-6

Your body needs vitamin B-6 to help convert protein and sugar into energy, and it's essential for the production of hemoglobin and nervous system function. The average adult needs about 1.3mg per day. It's pretty tough to have a B-6 deficiency, so supplementation isn't needed, but, it has been used to reduce homocysteine levels and to help treat depression and carpal tunnel syndrome. 

The ULs for Vitamin B-6 by age:

  • 0 to 6 months: unknown
  • 7 to 12 months: unknown
  • 1 to 3 years old: 30mg
  • 4 to 8 years old: 40mg
  • 9 to 13 years old: 60mg
  • 14 to 18 years old: 80mg
  • Adults: 100mg

Long-term use of vitamin B-6 supplements can cause nerve damage, skin lesions, nausea, and light sensitivity.

Folic Acid

Folic acid is a synthetic form of folate, a B-complex vitamin that's essential for making DNA, cell division, and growth. Folate is found in fruits and green vegetables, while folic acid is often used to fortify cereals and bread. The average adult needs about 400mcg every day, but it's also sold as a dietary supplement.

The ULs for Folic Acid by age:

  • 0 to 6 months: unknown
  • 7 to 12 months: unknown
  • 1 to 3 years old: 300mcg
  • 4 to 8 years old: 400mcg
  • 9 to 13 years old: 600mcg
  • 14 to 18 years old: 800mcg
  • Adults: 1,000mcg

Taking large amounts of folic acid may mask a vitamin B-12 deficiency that can lead to nerve damage. It's also possible that large amounts of folic acid might increase the risk of colorectal cancer.


Choline is a B-complex vitamin that your body needs for several biological processes and you need it to produce a brain chemical called acetylcholine. The average adult needs around 500 mg per day.

The ULs for Choline by age:

  • 0 to 6 months: unknown
  • 7 to 12 months: unknown
  • 1 to 8 years old: 1,000mg
  • 9 to 13 years old: 2,000mg
  • 14 to 18 years old: 3,000mg
  • Adults: 3,500mg

Taking too much choline on a daily basis can result in a fishy body odor, excessive sweating, low blood pressure, and liver problems.

What About Other Vitamins?

The Food and Nutrition Board hasn't set ULs for vitamin K, thiamin, riboflavin, vitamin B-12, pantothenic acids, or beta-carotene (a plant precursor of vitamin A). That doesn't mean it's OK to take huge mega-doses, just that tolerance levels haven't been determined yet. 

Vitamin Supplement Safety

Here are a few important tips to keep in mind if you want to take any vitamins as supplements:

  • If you take supplements, follow the label directions, unless your doctor has told you otherwise.
  • Keep all vitamin bottles out of the reach of little kids.
  • Remember that taking supplements won't fix unhealthy eating habits so keep your focus on eating a balanced diet including lots of fruits, vegetables, and whole grains.
  • Speak with your doctor if you're thinking about taking a vitamin or dietary supplement for a particular medical condition.
6 Sources
Verywell Fit uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
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  2. National Institutes of Health, Office of Dietary Supplements,.Vitamin A. NIH Office of Dietary Supplements.

  3. Ferraro PM, Curhan GC, Gambaro G, Taylor EN. Total, Dietary, and Supplemental Vitamin C Intake and Risk of Incident Kidney Stones. Am J Kidney Dis. 2016;67(3):400–407. doi:10.1053/j.ajkd.2015.09.005

  4. Nair R, Maseeh A. Vitamin D: The "sunshine" vitaminJ Pharmacol Pharmacother. 2012;3(2):118–126. doi:10.4103/0976-500X.95

  5. NIH Office of Dietary Supplements (ODS). Office of Dietary Supplements - Niacin. National Institutes of Health.

  6. Koyanagi T, Hareyama S, Kikuchi R, Takanohashi T, Oikawa K. Effect of administration of thiamine, riboflavin, ascorbic acid and vitamin A to students on their pantothenic acid contents in serum and urine. Tohoku J Exp Med. 1969;98(4):357-62. doi: 10.1620/tjem.98.357

Additional Reading

By Shereen Lehman, MS
Shereen Lehman, MS, is a former writer for Verywell Fit and Reuters Health. She's a healthcare journalist who writes about healthy eating and offers evidence-based advice for regular people.