Taking the correct dosage of vitamin supplements

One Size Rarely Fits All

As we’ve seen many times with various therapies, one size rarely fits all. And the same is true with vitamin supplements.

An HSI member named Doug sent an e-mail with this question:

“It seems to me that dosages should somehow reflect a relationship to a person’s body mass in order to be equally effective for all persons. Should a 90 lb. woman, or a 110 lb. teenager take the same dose as a 250 lb man? Perhaps the lack of expected results are only a result of not getting enough of what should help correct a condition when we all simply follow the directions for suggested dosages as shown on labels.”

I knew that HSI Panelist Allan Spreen, M.D., would have an opinion on this topic, so I shared Doug’s question with Dr. Spreen and here’s what he had to say:

“Nutrient supplementation, to be effective, is very often a dose-related phenomenon. If you want to prove that vitamins do NOT work, simply take a garden variety 100% RDA type hard pill multi-vitamin. The dosage contained is so low (except for iron) that it’s usually impossible to even detect in the blood that the person ever took anything (even if the pill breaks down, which is not a given at all).

“You are, therefore, correct. A Dallas Cowboys lineman would need, as a rule, a higher amount of nutrients to experience the same level of ‘health insurance’ or therapeutic efficacy as a 90-pound housewife (not to mention the additional physical stress he undergoes).

“Concerning multi-vitamin/mineral preparations there can be one problem, and that’s iron. It’s too high, in my opinion, for most everyone as it is a known generator of free radicals in biological systems (if it’s inorganic iron as most are in supplements). Therefore, you should either find a good multi that permits you to choose the same supplement ‘with’ or ‘without’ iron before deciding to increase the dose because you’re a big guy.

“Depending on the situation I might vary the dose of a supplement, even though the label says something like ‘adult dose 1 per day’. Since I normally use doses that are quite a bit higher than ‘normal’ (whatever that is) for everyone, I worry less about the person’s weight. My concern is the person’s history, which gives me hints as to specific nutrients that might be under-supplied for a particular individual. I throw a strong multi in there, and using the history try to make an educated guess as to what other agents might be added to the ‘team’ for the best potential response. (For the record I add extra vitamin C to ALL supplement routines, as I don’t believe any multi contains enough for even the smallest individual).”

So, Doug, if you ARE a lineman for the Dallas Cowboys, it might be time to boost the vitamin dosage.