Most people worry about not getting enough nutrients in their diet. However, an excess of nutrients can also be detrimental to your health. Consistently providing your body with more nutrients than it needs can lead to a form of malnutrition known as overnutrition, which can cause a wide range of health problems.
The most basic form of overnutrition is in the form of excess calorie intake. Calories act as fuel for your body. If you consume more calories than you burn through your daily activity, your body will store the excess as fat. The longer you overconsume calories, the more fat you will accumulate. Excess fat can cause a vicious cycle: the more fat you have, the harder it becomes to exercise and the more fat you gain. Excess fat can cause a number of serious health concerns as well: obesity has been linked to heart disease, cancer, depression, metabolic syndrome, sleep apnea, stroke and type 2 diabetes. The average adult should consume about 2,000 calories per day, although this can vary widely depending on your size, gender, age and activity level.
Fat is an important dietary element. Because it is very calorie-dense, excess fat on your plate can lead to excess fat on your body. But the real danger is in the type of fat on your plate. When eaten in excess, saturated fats and trans fats can prompt your body to produce excess low-density lipoprotein, the "bad" cholesterol. LDL can form plaque in your veins, which can increase your risk of heart disease and stroke.
Many people have turned to a high-protein, low-carbohydrate diet for weight loss. However, there are hidden dangers in eating too much protein. First of all, excess protein doesn't necessarily translate into bigger, stronger muscles. Like other nutrients, excess protein turns into fat in your body. Your body requires large amounts of water to metabolize protein. If your diet is too high in protein, you run the risk of dehydration, especially if you exercise vigorously. In addition, excess protein can lead to an excess loss of calcium through your urine, which can increase your risk of osteoporosis. In general, adults need about 60 grams of protein daily, although those who are trying to build muscle may need more.
Diets that include excessive amounts of simple carbohydrates, such as sugar-sweetened beverages and refined flour products, can lead to obesity. A study published in the December 2007 issue of the “European Journal of Clinical Nutrition,” reported that the high fiber content in complex carbohydrates, such as whole-grain cereals, vegetables, legumes and fruits, had less of an impact on weight gain in observational studies.
Most people who overdose on vitamins or minerals do so through supplement use. Unless you have a very poor diet or a medical condition that makes it difficult for you to absorb nutrients properly, it's best to get vitamins and minerals from a balanced diet rich in healthy monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats, fruits and vegetables, lean proteins and whole grains. Excess vitamins and minerals can cause a range of symptoms, from the unnoticeable to the gravely serious. Over time, an excess of niacin or vitamin A can cause liver damage. Excess vitamin A can also cause serious birth defects in unborn babies. Consuming excessive amounts of vitamin B-6 can cause permanent nerve damage.
Excesive sodium intake can cause dehydration and high blood pressure. Consuming excessive amounts of magnesium can cause explosive diarrhea. The Institute of Medicine, Food and Nutrition Board set the daily tolerable upper level for magnesium as 65 milligrams for children 1 to 3 years old and 110 milligrams for ages 4 to 8. For children and adults 9 years of age and older, the UL is 350 milligrams per day.
Very little iron is excreted from your body. Excess iron intake can cause a weak pulse, trouble breathing, abdominal pain and, in extreme cases, convulsions and coma. The UL for iron for children 7 to 12 months old is 40 milligrams per day. For ages 14 years and older, the UL is 45 milligrams per day. Because ingestion of 200 milligrams of iron has caused deaths in children, iron supplements should be kept out of children’s reach.
- Science J Rank: Malnutrition: Overnutrition
- ACE Fitness: Excess Protein Consumption Risks
- Nutrition ATC: Nutrient Excess Causes Reactions
- European Journal of Clinical Nutrition: Carbohydrate Intake and Obesity
- Office of Dietary Supplements, National Institutes of Health: Magnesium
- Office of Dietary Supplements, National Institutes of Health: Iron
- Merck: Carbohydrates, Proteins and Fats
- Jupiterimages/Brand X Pictures/Getty Images
This article reflects the views of the writer and does not necessarily reflect the views of Jillian Michaels or JillianMichaels.com.