Consumer Reports: Supplement Dos and Don'ts

50% of Americans take vitamins and supplements, according to government surveys.  Some have proven benefits, but Consumer Reports ShopSmart has a heads-up: There are other popular vitamins and supplements that can actually do more harm than good.

Kellie Norrgard, like many women, takes a calcium supplement with vitamin D every day.   

“I know that it’s going to help with my bone density, and that’s one of the things that I’m most concerned about,” says Norrgard.

Calcium combined with vitamin D is known to benefit bones, and it’s among the supplements worth considering, according to Consumer Reports ShopSmart.   

Other beneficial supplements include fish oil, with omega-3 fatty acids … and folic acid, for women who are pregnant or are planning to become pregnant.   

But ShopSmart says there are other vitamins and supplements that anyone who’s healthy should skip, including vitamin A and even multivitamins.  

“Research shows that multivitamins don’t benefit most people’s health. They don’t for example decrease the risk of heart disease or cancer,” says Consumer Reports’ Dr. Orly Avitzur

 Another vitamin warning – don’t take more than your doctor says you need. Mega doses can be dangerous. Too much vitamin E has been linked to a small but increased risk of lung cancer over time. Even very high doses of vitamin D could damage kidneys.  

“It’s easier than you think to take too much. Pay attention to the dosage of each vitamin or supplement that you take, and go over it with your doctor,” says Avitzur.

And don’t forget to factor in food and drinks that are vitamin enriched.  

Also, don’t substitute supplements for the real thing. Centrum has a new ProNutrients Fruit Veggie supplement. But on the back it says it’s “not intended to replace your daily intake of fruit and vegetables.”         

And as as Kellie Norrgard knows, the best way to benefit from fruits and vegetables is to eat them!     

ShopSmart has another caution about supplements. Combining them with prescription drugs can be dangerous. For example, there’s evidence that vitamin C reduces the power of many chemotherapy drugs. And St. John’s wort can interfere with some birth control. It’s always a good idea to talk to your doctor about any vitamins or supplements you’re taking.

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