Is it possible to overdose on antioxidants?

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Dr. Thomas E. Levy discusses whether it is possible to overdose on antioxidants.

He explains why it's essential to get a balance of various antioxidants to optimize health, including B vitamins, vitamin C, glutathione, and vitamin D. And Dr. Levy gives hints for creating that balance economically with the most critical supplements.


Transcript of Interview Dr. Thomas E. Levy

Interviewed by Tom Audette

Tom Audette: And in some places you read today, certain people at least are beginning to have some concern that you can get too many antioxidants. Do you believe that’s possible?

Dr. Thomas Levy: No, I think that’s ridiculous. I will say this. Certain complex molecules that have an antioxidant function you can take too much of and have toxic effects. Probably the best example is vitamin E, all right. You can definitely overdose on vitamin E. You can overdose on vitamin D. I’m not aware of anybody who can effectively overdose on vitamin C. If somebody drinks too much water, literally drinks gallons, and this is well-documented, they can dilute out the sodium in their blood, have seizures, and die. Well that means water is potentially fatal.

TA: Indeed.

TL: I’m not aware of anybody taking too much vitamin C to have a similar effect, so I would say water is more toxic than vitamin C. Now with regard to antioxidants in general, lots of people, and I suppose I’m not exception except that I think my feelings are fact based and not emotional, have their own little areas that they know more about and they’re more focused on. Absolutely, the more of a broad spectrum of antioxidants you can take, the better, because the antioxidants, all with what’s known as the reduction-oxidation, the redox state, more fresh antioxidants recharge the other spent antioxidants in delivering electrons around the body. I mean, vitamin C and glutathione are definitely not the only two things that donate electrons. Any antioxidant does it, and different antioxidants have different biochemical and physical properties so that they penetrate certain tissue compartments better than other things. This is why silibinin and silymarin are so effective and well-known for liver toxicity. So yes, take a good balance, take as much as your stomach can tolerate really.

At one point in time before I backed off, I took enough supplements that I sort of had a chronic indigestion. Then I said well this is kind of silly, and I started backing off and just taking the most critical ones. And probably a good way to approach this, especially if finances aren’t a consideration as well, I mean, we have a bad economy and a lot of these things are not inexpensive and is it food or supplement, is it rent of supplement, is it sending my kid to school or supplement, so you need to balance, but if you take the most critical ones, the C, a good complex of the B vitamins, vitamin D for other reasons that we may or may not discuss, you’ve got a good base there. And then let’s say you’ve got, like I outline there, forty, fifty, sixty other things that are all well defined as being good for you, do it on a rotating or round robin basis, you know, take five or six of other good ones for one or two weeks and then other good ones for one or two weeks.

But no, it’s ridiculous to both bankrupt yourself and make your stomach upset by taking forty or fifty supplements a day, and there’s a number of people that do it. It’s not bad for you, but it takes a lot of discipline because it will also screw up your digestion, which is something we don’t want to do, because then that again is robbing Peter to pay Paul; you’re taking in quality antioxidants but you’re destroying your digestion in the process and ultimately producing and releasing a lot more toxins. So use intelligence and common sense, but taking the vitamin C on a regular basis, taking a liposome encapsulated form of the glutathione, taking the B complex liposome encapsulated. Again, you can take all of these things non-liposome encapsulated, but I guarantee they’re not going to have the clinical impact of the liposome encapsulated.

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Anonymous's picture

tony d

I believe that you can overdose on antioxidants although it is very difficult and very expensive. Keep in mind, both oxidantation and reduction are necessary processes for the breakdown and rebuilding of every cell in the body. If excessive antioxidants are taken to cure a dreaded disease like cancer, you may actually be successful in killing the disease but will have to stop the protocol to regenerate new cells at an optimal rate. As the doctor says in the article it is not likely will overdose with water-soluble antioxidants but fat-soluble ones and certain antioxidant hormones can present a problem since they are stored or converted in a random fashion to other substances

Anonymous's picture


It is all about balance, and a DEFICIENCY is definitely bad for you. Balance. I know a guy who OD'ed on Vitamin A. But it did not give him a disease. Disease's are generally caused by a DEFICIENCY!!!!! Scurvy, a vitamin C deficiency. Pellagra, was a vitamin B deficiency. Who knows maybe cancer is a vitamin K deficiency, so GO HAVE A SALAD!!!!!!!

Be Well and Happy!

Anonymous's picture


I don't like the play on the term "overdose". Traditionally, overdose means taking a toxic dose of anything INADVERTENTLY, not intentionally. If some fool takes mega doses of anything while knowing well it's too much. it's intentional (or certainly not accidental).
That's attempted suicide, or in street English, a sheer stupidity.
And the allusions "you can overdose on D", well theoretically yes, but how many pounds do you have to take ??? in Australia they were feeding seniors 500,000 I.U., and nobody was dropping dead, or even getting ill. There were some reports of loss of balance and confusion, and that's all. But there are still fools out there who warn not to take more than several thousand units of D. After a six month study proved that half a million units doesn't do any serious harm.

Anonymous's picture


Very informative. Thank you for printing the transcript of this interview. It is very helpful for reference.

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