Safety of antioxidant vitamins

Arch Intern Med. 1996 May 13;156(9):925-35.


As a result of the many scientific and popular press reports of the benefits of antioxidant vitamins (vitamin A, beta-carotene, vitamin E, and ascorbic acid), it is estimated that 40% of the US population is consuming vitamin supplements. The efficacy of these supplements is not yet proved, and some have questioned their safety. Approximately 10 to 15 cases of vitamin A toxic reactions are reported per year in the United States, usually at doses greater than 100,000 IU/d. No adverse effects have been reported for beta-carotene. The frequency of vitamin E toxic reactions is not well delineated, but case reports are few at dosages less than 3200 mg/d. Ascorbic acid toxic reactions are rare at dosages less than 4 g/d. Despite a lack of clinical trial data, it seems that antioxidant vitamins are safe, although prudence might dictate their avoidance by women of childbearing potential, persons with liver disease or renal dysfunction, and those taking certain medications or undergoing specific laboratory tests.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Antioxidants / adverse effects*
  • Antioxidants / metabolism
  • Antioxidants / therapeutic use
  • Ascorbic Acid / adverse effects
  • Ascorbic Acid / metabolism
  • Ascorbic Acid / therapeutic use
  • Carotenoids / adverse effects
  • Carotenoids / metabolism
  • Carotenoids / therapeutic use
  • Humans
  • Vitamin A / adverse effects
  • Vitamin A / metabolism
  • Vitamin A / therapeutic use
  • Vitamin E / adverse effects
  • Vitamin E / metabolism
  • Vitamin E / therapeutic use
  • Vitamins / adverse effects*
  • Vitamins / metabolism
  • Vitamins / therapeutic use
  • beta Carotene


  • Antioxidants
  • Vitamins
  • beta Carotene
  • Vitamin A
  • Vitamin E
  • Carotenoids
  • Ascorbic Acid