ns and minerals no longer as an adjunct to diet, but as medicines in their own right," added Collins.
She saw nothing wrong with people taking a low-dose one-a-day multivitamin and mineral supplement.
There was evidence that people taking low dose supplements had reduced rates of chronic disease.
"It certainly doesn't do any harm, and could well do you some good," she said.
However taking doses many times the recommended daily allowance (RDA) could be seriously harmful.
Collins said she saw four or five people a year whose health was affected by high levels of supplements, and at least one a week who was taking an "inappropriate" dose of vitamins or minerals.
She gave the example of a woman admitted to hospital after collapsing at a bus stop who was suffering from severe unexplained diarrhoea.
Extensive investigations failed to find what was wrong with her. Then it was discovered she had been taking 3.5 gm of vitamin C and 1.5 gm of magnesium each day on the advice of a homeopath.
The recommended daily allowance (RDA) for vitamin C is 60mg and for magnesium 300mg.
"As soon as the supplements stopped, so did the diarrhoea," said Collins.
Vitamin A was one supplement commonly taken in excessive amounts, she said.
The RDA for vitamin A is 700 micrograms. Doses over 1,000 micrograms had been associated with osteoporosis and bone fractures.
A new European Union directive banning the sale of high-dose supplements is expected to come into force in August.
Medindia on Immune System:
Damage to the body caused by injury or disease is repaired naturally by the growth and spread of new tissue to replace damaged ones. The precise way in which the replace process works varies according to the type of tissue and the size and nature of the damage.
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