Dietary supplements have been around for decades, and many people take them to improve their overall health and well-being. But with so many options available, it can be challenging to know which supplements are right for you.

What You Need to Know About Dietary Supplements

What are Dietary Supplements?

Dietary supplements are products that contain one or more dietary ingredients such as vitamins, minerals, herbs, amino acids, or enzymes. They come in various forms, including pills, powders, and liquids, and are designed to supplement your diet with nutrients that you may not be getting enough of from food alone. Some of the most popular dietary supplements include:

  • Multivitamins
  • Calcium
  • Fish Oil
  • Echinacea
  • Ginseng
  • Garlic
  • Vitamin D
  • Green Tea

Benefits of Dietary Supplements

While a healthy diet is the best way to get the nutrients you need, some supplements can help you get enough nutrients to enhance your overall well-being.

According to Jeffrey Millstein, MD, physician at Penn Internal Medicine Woodbury Heights, some of the most common supplements that may benefit your health include:

  • Vitamin B12, which can help keep nerve and blood cells healthy, make DNA, and prevent anemia.
  • Folic acid, which can reduce birth defects when taken by pregnant women.
  • Vitamin D, which can strengthen bones.
  • Calcium, which can promote bone health.
  • Vitamins C and E, which can prevent cell damage.
  • Fish oil, which can support heart health.
  • Vitamin A, which can slow down vision loss from age-related macular degeneration. Zinc, which can promote skin health and slow down vision loss from age-related macular degeneration.
  • Melatonin, which can help counteract jet lag.

However, it’s essential to note that scientific evidence varies widely for the effectiveness of dietary supplements.

While some studies suggest that multivitamins won’t make you live longer, slow cognitive decline or lower your chances of disease such as heart disease, cancer, or diabetes, others have shown the potential benefits of certain supplements.

Risks of Taking Dietary Supplements

While some supplements are generally safe to take, they’re not entirely risk-free. Some supplements may interact with other medications you’re taking or pose risks if you have certain medical conditions, such as liver disease, or are going to have surgery.

Additionally, federal regulations for dietary supplements are less strict than prescription drugs, so some supplements may contain ingredients not listed on the label, and these ingredients can be unsafe.

Some supplements that may pose risks include:

  • Vitamin K, which can reduce the effectiveness of blood thinners.
  • Gingko, which can increase blood thinning.
  • St. John’s wort, which can make some drugs, such as antidepressants and birth control, less effective.
  • Herbal supplements comfrey and kava, which can damage your liver.
  • Beta-carotene and vitamin A, which can increase the risk of lung cancer in smokers.

Choosing the Right Supplement for You

The most crucial step in choosing a supplement is to speak with your healthcare provider. They can advise you on which supplements may be beneficial based on your individual situation and health.

It’s essential to follow the label instructions and your healthcare provider’s instructions when taking supplements.

You should also be wary of extreme claims made by supplement manufacturers, such as “cure for cancer.” Additionally, you can use the following tips to choose the right supplement for you:

  • Look for supplements that have been third-party tested and certified by organizations such as the United States Pharmacopeia (USP), ConsumerLab, or NSF International.
  • Avoid supplements that make claims that seem too good to be true or use words like “miracle” or “cure.”
  • Research the supplement and the manufacturer before purchasing.
  • Be wary of supplements that contain high doses of certain nutrients, as they may pose health risks.
  • Check the expiration date and storage instructions before purchasing and consuming the supplement.

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