Tips for being a safe and informed consumer before taking a dietary supplement are essential for health and well-being. Talking to your health professional can help you decide which supplements, if any, are right for you. You can also contact the manufacturer for product information and take it only as described on the label. It can be difficult to separate fact from fiction when it comes to supplements, as there is so much hype about their potential benefits.
While vitamins and minerals are essential for health, taking them in the form of pills, capsules or powder, especially in megadoses, is not necessary or safe. Dietary supplements can sometimes interact with each other, as well as with over-the-counter (OTC) and prescription drugs. Unlike drugs, the U. S.
Food & Drug Administration (FDA) is not authorized to review the safety and effectiveness of dietary supplements before they are marketed. It is up to manufacturers to ensure that their products do not contain contaminants or impurities, are properly labeled and contain what they claim. Some supplements can improve your health, but others may be ineffective or even harmful. National Institutes of Health (NIH) fact sheets can provide detailed information on the benefits and risks of individual vitamins and minerals, as well as herbal supplements.
If you're managing an underlying health condition (especially if you're taking medications) or are pregnant or breastfeeding, it is important to talk to your health care team before adding any new supplement to your regimen. Here are seven supplements that have historically been popular, and in all cases, experts recommend taking them with care, if at all.
Vitamin DVitamin D promotes the absorption of calcium in the body, and having enough is critical to health and well-being, as it offers the promise of protecting bones and preventing bone diseases such as osteoporosis, according to the NIH. Vitamin D supplements are popular because it's difficult (if not impossible for some) to get enough from food. Our bodies produce vitamin D when bare skin is exposed to direct sunlight, but the increase in time spent indoors and the widespread use of sunscreen have minimized the amount of vitamin D that many of us get from exposure to the sun. Enthusiasm for vitamin D supplements is outpacing the evidence.
Taking high doses isn't a good option. In healthy people, vitamin D blood levels greater than 100 nanograms per milliliter can cause additional calcium absorption and cause muscle pain, mood disorders, abdominal pain and kidney stones, notes the Cleveland Clinic. It can also increase the risk of heart attack and stroke. Vitamin D supplements may benefit certain people, including those at risk of a deficiency, such as people with darker skin, living with certain health conditions, and older adults. The most recent consensus statement from the American Geriatrics Society specifically suggests that people over 65 can help reduce the risk of fractures and falls if they supplement their diet with at least 1000 IU of vitamin D per day.
John's WortSt. John's Wort is a plant that is used as tea or in capsules with supposed benefits for depression, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, menopausal symptoms, insomnia, kidney and lung problems, obsessive-compulsive disorder, wound healing and more, says the NIH. St. John's Wort will be effective in treating mild depression.
However, taking St. John's Wort may reduce the effectiveness of other medications such as birth control pills, chemotherapy drugs against HIV or AIDS, and medications to prevent organ rejection after a transplant according to the NIH. It is important to learn about possible drug interactions and ask your doctor about the risks and benefits of this supplement.
CalciumCalcium is essential for a strong skeleton but too much of this mineral can be harmful.
The Institute of Medicine recommends that adults aged 19-50 get 1,000 milligrams (mg) per day; adults 51-70 get 1,200 mg per day; adults over 70 get 1,200 mg per day; pregnant women get 1,000 mg per day; breastfeeding women get 1,000 mg per day; children aged 4-8 get 800 mg per day; children aged 9-18 get 1,300 mg per day. It is important to note that calcium supplements may interact with certain medications such as antibiotics like tetracycline or quinolone; bisphosphonates like alendronate (Fosamax), ibandronate (Boniva), risedronate (Actonel); thyroid medications like levothyroxine (Synthroid); antacids like calcium carbonate (Tums); diuretics like hydrochlorothiazide; iron supplements; some chemotherapy drugs; some seizure medications; some cholesterol-lowering drugs; some HIV/AIDS medications; some antibiotics; some blood pressure medications; some heartburn medications; some diabetes medications; some anti-inflammatory drugs; some antifungal drugs.
Omega-3 Fatty AcidsOmega-3 fatty acids are essential fatty acids found in fish oil that have been linked to a variety of health benefits including reducing inflammation in the body which can help reduce joint pain associated with arthritis; reducing triglycerides which can help lower cholesterol levels; reducing blood pressure which can help reduce risk of stroke or heart attack; improving cognitive function which can help improve memory and concentration. The American Heart Association recommends eating two servings of fatty fish per week such as salmon or mackerel which contain omega-3 fatty acids EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid) and DHA (docosahexaenoic acid).
If you don't eat fish regularly then you may want to consider taking an omega-3 supplement which contains EPA and DHA.
Folic AcidFolic acid is a B vitamin found naturally in foods such as leafy green vegetables like spinach or kale; legumes like beans or lentils; citrus fruits like oranges or grapefruits; fortified grains like breads or cereals. Folic acid helps your body make new cells which is important for pregnant women since it helps prevent birth defects such as spina bifida. The Centers for Disease Control recommends that all women who could become pregnant take 400 micrograms (mcg) of folic acid every day from fortified foods or dietary supplements.
Vitamin B12Vitamin B12 helps keep your red blood cells healthy by helping them make new cells which helps prevent anemia. It also helps keep your nervous system functioning properly by helping make new nerve cells which helps prevent nerve damage. The recommended daily allowance for adults over 19 years old is 2.4 mcg per day but this may vary depending on age or medical condition so it's important to talk to your doctor about what's right for you.
IronIron helps your body make hemoglobin which carries oxygen throughout your body so it's important for energy production and overall health.
The recommended daily allowance for adults over 19 years old is 8 mg per day but this may vary depending on age or medical condition so it's important to talk to your doctor about what's right for you.
MagnesiumMagnesium helps regulate muscle contractions including those in your heart so it's important for overall heart health. The recommended daily allowance for adults over 19 years old is 420 mg per day but this may vary depending on age or medical condition so it's important to talk to your doctor about what's right for you.
ZincZinc helps support immune system function so it's important for overall health.
The recommended daily allowance for adults over 19 years old is 11 mg per day but this may vary depending on age or medical condition so it's important to talk to your doctor about what's right for you.