Are supplements really worth the money?

About half of the adult population takes at least one supplement. It's easy to understand why supplements sell so much. The public has a legitimate desire to be in good health, and the supplement industry has a strong desire for good sales. They also noted that, in previous studies, vitamin E and beta-carotene supplements appear to be harmful, especially at high doses.

A recent review of many studies investigating the effects of taking vitamin supplements revealed that, for the most common vitamin supplements, there was no evidence that they had beneficial effects in preventing heart disease, stroke, or premature death. However, if you think you might want to start taking a particular supplement, it's always wise to check with a medical professional first. Because nearly all supplements are used without medical supervision or control, most of the approximately 50,000 adverse reactions that occur in the United States each year go unreported. We'll look at the most popular supplements in both categories, starting with preventive supplements used primarily by healthy people.

Previous research suggested that men who took vitamin E supplements may have a lower risk of developing prostate cancer. Many people take supplements in the belief that they will preserve health or prevent diseases; many others use them to treat specific conditions that have already developed. Of the supplements that aren't derived from vitamins and minerals, Hopp says, “fish oil is probably the one with the most scientific evidence to support its use. Half of American adults, including 70 percent of those 65 and older, take a multivitamin or other vitamin or mineral supplement on a regular basis.

Therefore, the next step is to carry out randomized clinical trials, in which volunteers are randomly assigned the supplement or an identical-looking placebo (dummy pill) while researchers track their health status. Vitamin supplements usually contain only one “active ingredient” in isolation, while foods bring together a wide range of different nutrients in different combinations. However, there are a handful of vitamins and supplements that, according to studies, might be worth taking for people with specific conditions. In addition, the effects of many supplements have not been tested in children, pregnant women, and other groups.

Vitamin C may not prevent or treat the common cold, but it may be worth taking the other commonly used cold supplement, zinc. These include glucosamine (for joint pain) and herbal supplements, such as echinacea (immune health) and flaxseed oil (for digestion). The MyDS app provides the latest information on supplements and allows you to keep track of the vitamins, minerals, herbs and other products you take.

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