Tolerable Upper Intake Levels for Fat-Soluble Vitamins

Fat-soluble vitamins can become toxic if taken in large amounts.

Fat-soluble vitamins A, D, E, and K are essential for a variety of biological functions your body needs to be able to survive and be healthy. You can get them from the foods you eat (and sun exposure in the case of vitamin D), but they're also available in supplemental form, often in large amounts. 

Your body keeps fat-soluble vitamins in your liver and your fat cells, so they're stored much longer than water-soluble vitamins. On one hand, you're less likely to deal with a deficiency, but, on the other hand, they can build up to toxic levels over time.

The Health and Medicine Division of National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine has determined how much of each nutrient you need every day, as well as the tolerable upper intake level (UL). The UL is the largest intake of each nutrient known to be safe. 

Vitamin A

Vitamin A is necessary for healthy vision, reproduction, immune system function and cell development. The recommended daily allowance is 700 micrograms for women and 900 micrograms per men. The UL is 3,000 micrograms per day. Regularly consuming more than this amount may cause hair loss, cracked lips, dry skin, headaches, and weakened bones. Continued overuse of vitamin A supplements may lead to liver damage, especially if you also have a high intake of alcohol, or have liver disease or high levels of cholesterol and triglycerides. Pregnant women who consume too much vitamin A have increased the risk of birth defects.

Vitamin D

Vitamin D helps your body absorb calcium, so it's essential for strong bones and teeth. The recommended daily allowance ranges from 5 to 10 micrograms per day. The UL is 50 micrograms (or 2,000 International Units) per day. Going over this amount on a daily basis may cause a condition called hypercalcemia (elevated level of calcium in the blood). Early symptoms include nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea, and a continued high vitamin D intake may eventually lead to dehydration, kidney stones, and kidney damage.

Vitamin E

Vitamin E works as an antioxidant in your body. The recommended daily allowance is 15 micrograms per day, and the UL is 1,000 micrograms per day. Consuming more than the UL every day could lead to bleeding problems, in particular for people who are also taking blood-thinning medications. Large amounts of vitamin E can also cause muscle weakness, nausea, and diarrhea.

Vitamin K

Vitamin K is necessary for normal blood clotting and is essential for healthy bones. The recommended daily allowance is 90 micrograms per day for women and 120 micrograms per day for men. The Institute of Medicine hasn't determined a UL for vitamin K intake.

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Article Sources
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  • Health and Medicine Division of National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. "Dietary Reference Intakes Tables and Application."

  • Institutes of Medicine of the Institutes of Health. "Dietary Reference Intakes."

  • The Merck Manual Home Health Handbook. "Vitamin A." 

  • The Merck Manual Home Health Handbook. "Vitamin D." 

  • The Merck Manual Home Health Handbook. "Vitamin E."