What Is a Vitamin Megadose?

C. Mitchell
C. Mitchell
An extremely high dose of an essential vitamin such as vitamin C is considered a vitamin megadose.
An extremely high dose of an essential vitamin such as vitamin C is considered a vitamin megadose.

A vitamin megadose is an extremely high concentration of an essential vitamin packaged into a single dose that is either swallowed or directly injected into the bloodstream. Regular consumption of many different vitamins and minerals is required for optimum human health, and the World Health Organization, along with most countries’ governments, advocate certain recommended daily allowances, or RDAs, for vitamin consumption. A vitamin megadose greatly exceeds these RDAs. Megadoses are usually prescribed by doctors to treat specific conditions, though their efficacy is often debated within the medical community.

Consuming too much vitamin A, E, D or K from supplements can be harmful.
Consuming too much vitamin A, E, D or K from supplements can be harmful.

Supplements of vitamins are sold over the counter in nearly all countries. Doctors generally recommend that people take vitamin pills to make up for dietary deficiencies, as well as to boost overall health. Most over-the-counter supplements contain no more than the recommended daily allowance of any given substance. A vitamin megadose means more than just taking more pills than are needed: it means taking an ultra-high concentration, usually in one fell swoop.

Large doses of vitamin D are sometimes prescribed for elderly patients who are at special risk for developing osteoporosis.
Large doses of vitamin D are sometimes prescribed for elderly patients who are at special risk for developing osteoporosis.

In order for vitamin dosage to qualify as a megadose, it usually must vastly exceed the recommended RDA. Many vitamin megadoses pack in several months' worth of a certain vitamin into a single dose. This dose usually comes in the form of a single pill or injection that is prescribed by a doctor.

It is, of course, possible to create a homemade vitamin megadose by ingesting whole bottles of over-the-counter supplements. Doctors generally discourage this for a number of reasons. First, popping handfuls of vitamin pills can be harmful: while rarely life threatening, inadvertent vitamin overdose often causes a host of negative side effects. Also, there is little reason to believe that taking excessive quantities of a vitamin will do any more for a healthy person than will simply taking the recommended amount. Self-prescribed high dosages can also interfere with prescription drugs in some cases.

Some multivitamin supplements feature doses that greatly exceed the recommended daily allowance of each vitamin.
Some multivitamin supplements feature doses that greatly exceed the recommended daily allowance of each vitamin.

Doctors typically reserve megavitamin therapy for the treatment of specific conditions. Many inherited genetic defects can be cured or alleviated with megadoses of vitamins, particularly those in the B-vitamin family. B vitamins act as enzyme cofactors, and megadoses are sometimes prescribed as treatment for genetic disorders that are based on inefficient or defective enzyme binding codes.

Megadoses of vitamin C have been used to treat symptoms associated with Alzheimer's disease.
Megadoses of vitamin C have been used to treat symptoms associated with Alzheimer's disease.

A number of studies have also attempted to link a vitamin C megadose to cancer recovery, as well as faster recovery from ailments as simple as the common cold. Vitamin D megadoses are also commonly prescribed for the elderly and those with bone degeneration disorders, to reduce the likelihood of bone breaks. The results and claimed efficacy of these vitamin megadose treatments is lauded by many doctors, but challenged by others.

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    • An extremely high dose of an essential vitamin such as vitamin C is considered a vitamin megadose.
      An extremely high dose of an essential vitamin such as vitamin C is considered a vitamin megadose.
    • Consuming too much vitamin A, E, D or K from supplements can be harmful.
      Consuming too much vitamin A, E, D or K from supplements can be harmful.
    • Large doses of vitamin D are sometimes prescribed for elderly patients who are at special risk for developing osteoporosis.
      Large doses of vitamin D are sometimes prescribed for elderly patients who are at special risk for developing osteoporosis.
    • Some multivitamin supplements feature doses that greatly exceed the recommended daily allowance of each vitamin.
      Some multivitamin supplements feature doses that greatly exceed the recommended daily allowance of each vitamin.
    • Megadoses of vitamin C have been used to treat symptoms associated with Alzheimer's disease.
      Megadoses of vitamin C have been used to treat symptoms associated with Alzheimer's disease.
    • Doctors may only recommend vitamins to patients with dietary deficiencies.
      Doctors may only recommend vitamins to patients with dietary deficiencies.