When it comes to supplements, it can be hard to tell the difference between those that live up to the hype and those that are overhyped. While vitamins and minerals are crucial to our overall well-being, taking them in supplement form can cause health problems, especially if you combine too many.
Here’s a guide to which supplements are worth trying and which ones to avoid, according to experts.
When is it beneficial to take supplements?
A general guideline is to view food as the primary form of medicine.
Much of what we eat these days, such as processed and packaged foods, lacks healthy nutrients, but it’s all readily available in the supermarket. Gary Soffer, MD, an allergist-immunologist at Yale Medicine and an assistant professor at Yale School of Medicine. Most supplements are derived from food sources, so it makes sense that food is the main source of vitamins and nutrients.
Supplements should be exactly what their name says: they are ‘supplemental’. This means that if you can’t get it in your diet, you should supplement your diet with them. The perfect example of this is vitamin Dwhich has very limited food sources, adds Dr. Soffer.
“Most people can get the vitamins and minerals they need directly from food (which increases the importance of following a complete and balanced diet),” he says. Dr. Jacob Hascalovici MD, PhDthe Of course Chief Physician. “That said, certain groups of people may want to consider dietary supplements.”
If you’re pregnant or trying to get pregnant, for example, it’s important to make sure you’re getting enough folic acid (vitamin B9). Vitamin B12 can help vegetarians who may not be getting enough naturally. And with aging come increased risks of osteoporosis and nutritional imbalances, so if you’re over 50, you might want to consider vitamin D and calcium, says Dr. Hascalovici. Each person has their own unique nutritional needs, which is why supplements aren’t really a one-size-fits-all.
Supplements to avoid
Pure supplements taken in appropriate doses are generally safe, but in high doses they can be very dangerous, especially some of the fat-soluble vitamins like Vitamin A and vitamin E
The biggest cause for concern is often not the supplement itself, but the commercial products sold on the shelves, says Dr. Soffer. It’s important to know that in the US, regulations on how such supplements are produced, marketed, and distributed are limited, which has led to several cases of people being harmed by over-the-counter products.
There may be specific circumstances in which these supplements are recommended, depending on a person’s unique nutritional needs. But in other cases, it’s best to avoid these vitamins or take them from more natural sources, according to Dr. Hascalovici.
Often touted as being good for bones, calcium is taken as a supplement has been linked to an increased risk of heart attacks. As scientists learn more about calcium supplementation, it appears that it may be smarter to get calcium through food rather than stand-alone supplementation. Even if you’re concerned about osteoporosis, it’s a good idea to consult with a medical professional to make sure calcium supplements are the right answer for you.
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Ginkgo biloba is natural and is often considered beneficial for memory and blood flow. However, ginkgo biloba can interferes with many common medications, including medications for mood disorders, diabetes, and pain, sometimes with very negative consequences. People with epilepsy should generally avoid ginkgo biloba, as it can cause seizures.
This produces vitamin A and unfortunately can be overdone. In one to study, the researchers found that among men, beta-carotene supplementation was associated with an increased risk of lung cancer. It’s best to get your beta-carotene and vitamin A from sweet potatoescarrots and other bright vegetables.
Although iron supplements may benefit people with anemia, the usefulness of copper and iron supplements declines rapidly for women after age 50. In fact, these supplements can actually increase the risk of Alzheimer’s disease, so it is recommended to avoid them after 50 or more. Copper and iron can be found in some meats, green leafy vegetables, beans, and nuts.
Doctor Recommended Supplements
Even for these more popular supplements, it’s always best to talk to your doctor or nutritionist before starting. With that said, Dr. Hascalovici recommends the following supplements.
You’ve probably heard it before, and it’s not bad: Most of us could use a little more vitamin D. If getting more sunlight isn’t for you, consider taking a vitamin D supplement to help prevent sunburn. depression, fatigue, and problems with bone health, digestion, and even the aging process. You can also boost your vitamin D by eating eggs, dairy, and mushrooms.
In general, you can take vitamin D once a day, but talk to your doctor or nutritionist about the specific amount of vitamin D that is best for you, as it is possible to take too much.
These vitamins have a huge impact on the body, from liver function to stress and mood stabilization. Its lack can lead to fatigue, weakness, cramps, anemia, cracking of the skin and more. Vegetarians and vegans should make sure they get enough B vitamins, particularly vitamin B12.
Nutritional yeast is a great source of vitamin B12 and Salmon also contains it. And while B vitamins are water soluble, it’s possible to overdo it over time, which can lead to nerve problems.
This supplement supports your thyroid and can help stabilize serotonin, which can affect your mood. It can also support your blood pressure and help control inflammation. if you’re looking for more magnesium, then oat bran, wheat germ, fluffy greens, and nuts are your friends. Supplements are recommended for some people, but not for all.
Dr. Soffer does not usually recommend supplements. “As an Integrative Medicine physician, I am always hesitant to add more pills to my patients’ regimen; this includes things like supplements that they may consider more natural,” says Dr. Soffer. “I look for the more traditional ways that people stay healthy, so in my office, we always start by focusing on a healthy and nutritious diet. Oftentimes, with the right diet, patients don’t need additional pills.”