By Karen Appold
Taking vitamins and supplements may seem like a great idea, and in many cases it may very well be a healthy thing to do. But before taking any pills, be sure you know fact from fiction.
Myth #1: Supplements are a good substitute for a healthy diet.
Fact: There’s no substitute for food’s disease-fighting benefits. Your body may not absorb nutritional benefits from supplements as well as from foods. This could happen if you don’t take them with a meal, for instance. In addition, research shows that fruits and veggies provide nutritional benefits, such as certain phytonutrients, that you simply can’t obtain by taking supplements.
Myth #2: “All natural” supplements are best.
Fact: The federal government does not regulate the term “all natural,” so don’t be fooled into thinking that they are safer or healthier. The truth is, reading the nutrition label should be your priority. Only choose supplements that provide around 100 percent of the daily recommended value. If the value is higher than 300, they may not be safe.
Myth #3: The more supplements you take, the better.
Fact: If you take too much of one nutrient, you can actually cause harm and/or become deficient in other areas. Consuming too much vitamin A can increase risk of osteoporosis; too much iron makes you more prone to heart disease and can actually cause a zinc deficiency because both of these minerals have similar binding sites in the body. Excess nutrients are stored in fat. Since you don’t excrete them, they can actually build up to toxic levels.
Myth #4: Supplements can help to prevent or manage certain health conditions.
Fact: Supplements are not meant to be taken in lieu of medications. Rather, they “supplement,” or fill in gaps, left by a healthy diet. They can play an integral role in a treatment plan, which includes exercising and getting enough sleep. For some people, vitamin D may be a worthwhile supplement to take because it isn’t found in a lot of foods.
Myth #5: All supplements are safe; there’s no need to tell your doctor if you’re taking them.
Fact: Some supplements can interact with prescription and over-the-counter medications. Did you know that fish oil can thin your blood? It you’re already taking medication to achieve this, you may be overdoing it by taking fish oil supplements. Therefore, it’s a good idea to discuss taking any supplements with your doctor before taking them.
Karen Appold is a medical writer based in Lehigh Valley, PA.