Fish oil, Vitamin D, Vitamins C and E and other antioxidants

Fish oil

What you need to know – It has a reputation as a heart helper. Evidence supports the idea that higher intake of fish or fish-oil supplements, with their omega-3 fatty acids, probably reduces the risk of heart attack and stroke and may slow the progression of hardening of the arteries in people with existing heart disease. Omega-3s might also boost mood and help prevent certain cancers, cognitive decline, and eye disease.

Who should consider it People who have heart disease.

How much to take One gram daily, so you’ll probably need several capsules. Other people can generally get enough omega-3s by eating two or more weekly servings of fatty fish such as salmon.

Vitamin D

What you need to know – Calcium might get credit for bone strength, but it’s vitamin D that helps the body take in and use it. Research has found that the combo might help reduce falls in people who are D-deficient and also cut bone loss in people taking corticosteroids. In addition, higher levels of vitamin D have been linked to a reduced risk of certain cancers, diabetes, and heart attack, plus a stronger immune system.

Who should consider it – The sun’s rays help convert a chemical in the skin to vitamin D, but most people still need more, especially those who don’t get much midday sun, who (wisely) use sunscreen, and who live in areas where the sun isn’t intense enough to stimulate D production in winter. Being middle-aged or overweight or having darker skin can also make it difficult to get enough D.

How much to take – Experts suggest getting 800 to 1,000 international units (IU) daily. Few foods are naturally good sources, and even fortified cereal or orange juice usually has only about 100 IU per serving.

Vitamins C and E and other antioxidants

What you need to know – People who eat a lot of antioxidant-rich fruits and vegetables may have a lower risk of certain cancers, diabetes, heart disease, and other diseases. For many years, scientists have tried to replicate those results using antioxidant vitamins, minerals, and other plant chemicals. Unfortunately, it just hasn’t panned out. In an analysis of 67 antioxidant trials involving 230,000 people, the only positive result uncovered was a reduced mortality risk in some of the selenium trials. Vitamin C appeared to have no effect, and beta-carotene and vitamins A and E were actually associated with an increased risk of death.

Who should consider it – People with mid- to late-state age-related macular degeneration, a progressive eye disease that causes vision loss, might be able to slow its progress with certain supplements. Consider them if you have the disease or a strong family history. What about the popular advice to take vitamin C at the first sign of sniffles? Some studies show a modest reduction in symptoms, but the levels tested – 1 to 8 grams daily – can cause intestinal upset and diarrhea in some people.

How much to take – If you have macular degeneration, ask your eye doctor about antioxidant supplements.

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