The Impact of Dietary Supplements on Health and Wellbeing

Dietary supplements can be beneficial for overall health and help manage certain health conditions. Folic acid, for example, can reduce the risk of certain birth defects. Many people assume that taking dietary supplements alongside prescription medications is safe, but this is not always the case. Certain supplements can block or speed up the body's ability to break down medications, leading to too much or too little medication in the bloodstream.

It was once thought that since vitamins, minerals, and other nutrients are natural, they could not cause harm. While multivitamins pose a low risk of drug interactions, smokers and former smokers should avoid multivitamins with high levels of vitamin A or beta-carotene, as these nutrients may increase the risk of lung cancer when taken as supplements. Calcium supplements may also lead to hardening of the arteries or atherosclerosis and an increased risk of heart disease, although research is conflicting. Before adding any supplement to your health and wellness regimen, it is important to discuss your options with your healthcare team and other health providers to assess the potential risks and benefits for your individual situation.

In some cases, herbal supplements have been found to contain very little or none of the ingredients listed. There is currently not enough positive evidence for doctors to prescribe fish oil supplements to all patients. Cancer experts recommend that people avoid dietary supplements while receiving cancer treatment. Side effects of dietary supplements occur more often if people take high doses or use them instead of medications prescribed by their healthcare provider.

Large doses of certain nutrients can have adverse effects. A study published in JAMA Internal Medicine found that women who took supplements had a higher risk of dying compared to women who did not take them. People who got calcium from food had a lower risk of atherosclerosis, while calcium supplements were associated with a higher risk of atherosclerosis. Botanical supplements (such as garlic, ginger, ginkgo biloba, echinacea, and others) are made from plant material and are often sold as “natural products”.

However, dietary supplements are not completely safe and taking them may pose risks, especially for people receiving cancer treatment. When considering St. John's Wort, it is important to learn about possible drug interactions and ask your doctor about the risks and benefits of this supplement, as well as how it compares to other options.

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