To Take or Not To Take Supplements

There have been studies proving and disproving that supplements are healthy to take. Beliefnet expert Dr. Linda Mintle breaks down the research to help you decide if supplements are right for you.

I’ve been reading a number of articles and recent studies on whether or not multivitamins and dietary supplements help us. I spend money on supplements and believe they have benefit. The supplement industry is certainly booming! But the question is, do all these pills really help us? And is there a placebo effect (we think they help so we feel better!) to taking these supplements?

Two large scale human studies published in October in leading medical journals indicated that the supplements don’t do much and may even be harming us. The studies point out that if you don’t have a specific nutrient deficiency or chronic illness, you may be wasting your money and adding a health risk.

The first study found one supplement that improved mortality in older postmenopausal women –calcium.

The second study looked at vitamin E and selenium supplementation in men. The claim that Vitamin E prevents prostate cancer was not supported and was associated with a higher risk of prostate cancer.

Marion Nestle, professor of nutrition at New York University says, “It’s fair to say from the research that supplements don’t make healthy people healthier.”However, researchers are still recommending dietary supplements for people with certain nutrient deficiencies, medical conditions and malnutrition. One example given was the use of folic acid supplements for pregnant women in order to reduce birth defect. Micronutrients like antioxidants (e.g., vitamin C, D and metals) can help in small amounts but too much can cause problems.

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To the lay person, these studies are confusing. To take or not to take…this is still the question.

So, if you take supplements, work with a knowledgeable doctor who is up on research. He or she can look at your health and help you weed through all the data. For now, I don’t have answers as to what is really helpful. And in these economic times, I don’t want to waste money on unnecessary things. So if you find solid research on this topic, please pass it on. We all need more information to make informed decisions. And when the information keeps changing, it makes decision making even more difficult.

My best advice: Work on eating a balanced diet!

 

 

 

Dr. Linda Mintle writes the relationship and advice blog "Doing Life Together"  on Beliefnet.

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Dr. Linda Mintle
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