Strange But True: Too Much of a Good Thing

The average recommended diet for all people is 2,000 calories a day, with some alterations made depending on the weight, height, gender, age, and activity level of a person.  This diet should be evenly balanced with protein, grains, dairy, fruits, and vegetables. Now, the word “overeating” typically describes when someone eats too much and maybe puts on a little weight, but overall the consequences are barely there.  However, there are ways to overdose on lots of everyday foods by far surpassing ordinary amounts of overeating.

Water intoxication, or the disturbance in brain functions that occurs due to excessive water intake is a well known problem.  To reach water intoxication, you would have to drink ten to twenty liters of water within about five hours. If you were to do that, the number of electrolytes in your body would go beyond the safe limit, throwing off the level of sodium in the blood.  The sodium in the blood balances the fluids around the cells, so without it, cells in the brain and the rest of the body will swell, which requires immediate treatment and can be fatal.

The lesser known facts lie in how much of ordinary foods you would have to eat for them to become fatal.  For example, have you ever decided to take double the dose of Vitamin C supplements to help you get better when you’re sick?  Now, have you ever wanted to take 809 of them at once? Hopefully the answer is “no”, because a dose of 809 supplements, which is equivalent to 11,000 oranges, would cause a person to overdose on Vitamin C.  The trade off just might be worth an extra flu day or two.

Everyone has at one point or another heard his or her mom say something to the effect of, “no, you can’t eat a cookie, you just finished eating ice cream!”  We all know sugar is bad for us, but it becomes lethal at a whopping 10.5 cups in one sitting. On a related note, chocolate’s magic number is 85 full-sized bars (which contain roughly 45 grams of chocolate each) due to the chemical theobromine.

If you find yourself reaching for fruits and veggies often, proceed with caution.  Eating 480 bananas would load a person up with the potassium equivalent to a lethal potassium chloride injection.  Too many carrots and sweet potatoes won’t kill people, but they will cause a condition called carotenemia; this is characterized by orange-pigmented skin and is caused by excessive beta-carotene in the bloodstream.

A carotenemic person’s hand compared to a normally pigmented Caucasian hand.

This all sounds rather morbid, but there is a lesson to be learned from this information.  Everything is good in moderation. Alternatively, maybe the lesson is to not eat colossal amounts of food so that you don’t die.

If you are interested in non-food related examples that I did not mention here, check out this very informative video:





All images are from Google unless otherwise noted.

One Comment

  1. Wow! that’s really interesting, Cassie!