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The truth about supplements: 5 things you should know

When shopping in any pharmacy or health food store, you’ve likely come across a vast array of supplements. Non-prescription or over-the-counter tablets, gummies, powders, and other non-food items that claim a variety of supposed health benefits.

While some supplements do have science-backed benefits, others come with unfounded promises. What’s more, some supplements may be harmful to your health if taken at improper doses or mixed with certain prescription medicines or other drugs, and they may not even include what is on the label.

So just to be on the safe side, here’s a closer look at the potential health benefits, known risks, and everything else you should know about dietary supplements before indulging.

They come in many forms
Supplements come in various forms – pills, powders, or liquids. They contain essential nutrients like vitamins, minerals, herbs, and enzymes. Common ones include calcium, fish oil, echinacea, ginseng, garlic, vitamin D, St. John’s wort, and green tea.

They have benefits and uncertainties
Certain supplements can benefit health, like vitamin B12 for nerves and blood cells, folic acid for pregnant women, and vitamin D for bone health. However, despite extensive research, evidence of their effectiveness remains unclear. Most studies show no significant impact on longevity, cognitive decline, or disease prevention.

Supplements are not always safe
While multivitamins are generally safe, caution is crucial. They might interact with medications, pose risks for specific medical conditions, and sometimes contain undisclosed ingredients or prescription drugs. Examples include Vitamin K affecting blood thinners and St. John’s wort reducing the effectiveness of certain medications.

Consult your doctor first
Before taking any supplements, consulting a healthcare provider is vital. Understanding how supplements may affect individual health and potential interactions with other medications is crucial. Following the label instructions, being cautious of extravagant claims, and ensuring proper storage are essential steps.

Supplements are not a substitute for a healthy diet
Supplements are intended to complement a well-rounded diet. While they can provide an extra nutrient boost for some individuals, they should never replace real, nutrient-rich food. Vitamins and minerals from food play a crucial role in supporting the body’s functions.

Supplements serve as a supplement to a healthy diet, aiming to enhance the nutrients already derived from food intake. However, they aren’t a magical solution and should be approached cautiously, consulting healthcare providers and prioritizing a balanced diet.