The Truth about Vitamins and Supplements

Americans nowadays are often bombarded with advertisements for various vitamin and supplement products miraculously claiming to help you lose weight, add muscle, or be more focused. With so many companies making claims about their products, it can be hard for vitamins01both doctors and regular consumers to keep track of which vitamins and supplements work and which don’t.

What are your experiences with vitamins and supplements?

The federal Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is responsible for regulating vitamins and supplements, but that doesn’t mean all supplements will work as advertised. As studies are beginning to show, most of them do not.

How can I know if my vitamin or supplement will actually work?

The National Institutes of Health recommends using the following checklist to evaluate the claims made by producers of vitamins and supplements:

1. What information does the firm have to substantiate the claims made for the product? Be aware that sometimes firms supply so-called “proof” of their claims by citing undocumented reports from satisfied consumers, or graphs and charts that could be mistaken for well conducted scientific research.

2. Does the firm have information to share about tests it has conducted on the safety or efficacy of the ingredients in the product?

3. Does the firm follow good manufacturing practices and have a quality control system in place to determine if the product actually contains what is stated on the label and is free of contaminants?

4. Has the firm received any adverse events reports from consumers using their products?

You might not always be able to answer all of these questions, but it pays to do research on any vitamin or supplement you intend to take. The National Institutes of Health has a wealth of information on the subject, and you can read their Frequently Asked Questions on vitamins and supplements here.

Read the vitamin & supplement labels!

It always helps to know what you are taking, so read the labels on any product you take to learn as much as you can. The labels on supplements can be very confusing. New laws went into effect in 2010 requiring GMP (Good Manufacturing Practices) but even these new labels can be a bit confusing. However the National Institutes of Health have made it a lot easier to learn more about the supplements you are taking. You can easily search the Dietary Supplement Database  to get detailed information on ingredients, suggested serving size, suggested use and much more.

Vitamins follow the labeling guidelines you are more familiar with. However there is a lot of information packed into a small space. This guide to reading a vitamin label was created by FamilyDoctor.org to help sort out what every item on the label means.

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You can read more on vitamins and supplements from FamilyDoctor here.

Which vitamins and supplements do I actually need?

Though many vitamin and supplement products can be misleading, they can also be of benefit to your health. The human body can best absorb nutrients through food, so vitamins and supplements should be used to “bridge the gap” when your normal diet doesn’t supply all of the vitamins and nutrients that you need.

If you want to know how to get the most nutrition out of your food choices, check out my blog on nutrition!

For those of us that need to supplement our diet, the following table shows which ones work best.

 NAME  BENEFIT
 Vitamin D  Boosts the immune system, preventing  autoimmune diseases and cancer
 Probiotics  Digestive Aid
 Zinc  Helps weaken cold symptoms
 Niacin (Vitamin B3)  Reduces chance of heart disease
 Garlic  Reduces high blood pressure

 

Not everyone needs to take extra vitamins and supplements. It’s important to work with your doctor to come up with a plan that will work for you. I make discussions about nutrition and vitamins and supplement a part of my overall discussions with my patients.

You can read more about these useful vitamins and supplements from the Smithsonian.

In short, be smart!

Vitamins and supplements can be valuable to your health. I’d love to know which ones you take, and how well they work for you.

Doing your research, reading your labels, and working with your doctor to develop a supplement plan is the best way to make sure you get the most out of your supplements. As always, best wishes for a happy, healthy life,

Dr. Johnson