Resist The Urge For a Quick Fix

Back when undernutrition and vitamin deficiencies were widespread, supplements made some sense. But now one of the more urgent health problems is obesity and overnutrition while a growing body of studies shows that supplements’ effects are minimal or negative. 

Remember that you can’t know for sure what's really in your supplement bottle. And that the pills probably won't make you any healthier (unless you have a medically diagnosed deficiency). And they might even be hurting you.

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Studies demonstrate that multivitamins don't improve outcomes on a number of health measures, from staving off cognitive decline to preventing cardiovascular disease and cancer. The health benefits of probiotics are wildly exaggerated, and taking antioxidants like beta carotene and vitamin E might even kill you faster.

And thanks to lax regulation supplement makers don't need to prove their products' content, effectiveness or safety before commercializing it. 

In the US, supplements are regulated like food — and not drugs — under the Dietary Supplement Health and Education Act of 1994, pill makers can basically put whatever claims they want on their bottles.

One analysis of supplement websites found 81 percent made at least one health claim — and more than half of those promised to treat, prevent, diagnose, or cure specific diseases. But a quick thought exercise will tell you that if these pills were truly panaceas, the FDA would have to treat them like drugs, not foods.

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When Buying Supplements
  • Consider only single-ingredient supplements. Multi-ingredient supplements make it hard to identify which substance is having an effect and they are more likely to be adulterated with banned drugs.
  • Tell your doctor about any supplement you take, so they can check it will interact with any of the medicines you're on.

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IDEAS

The safety, efficacy, and contents of supplements cannot be trusted.

  • An independent lab that analyzed beauty supplements found small quantities of lead in it. Lead is a heavy metal that's a neurotoxin in children.
  • High doses of biotin can produce false lab results, increasing the chance of missed diagnosis and treatment.
  • Ashwagandha has a variety of side effects, including miscarriage.
  • Too much Vitamin A and E can cause hair loss.
Supplements don't replace a healthy diet

Supplements are never a substitute for a balanced, healthful diet.

And they can be a distraction from healthy lifestyle practices that confer much greater benefits.

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