Taking vitamins every day may seem like a good idea, but it can actually be dangerous. Research has found that taking multivitamins can increase the risk of premature death. It is important to remember that taking a multivitamin will not replace healthy habits. Multivitamins may be helpful for those who cannot meet their daily nutrient needs through diet alone.
However, dietary supplements can interact with each other and with over-the-counter and prescription drugs. Unlike drugs, the U. S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) does not review the safety and effectiveness of dietary supplements before they are marketed.
It is up to manufacturers to ensure that their products do not contain contaminants or impurities, are properly labeled, and contain what they claim. If used correctly, some supplements can improve your health, but others may be ineffective or even harmful. For example, a systematic review that analyzes the possible effects of nutritional supplements on cardiovascular health suggests that few supplements help prevent heart disease; only omega-3 fatty acids and folic acid were effective. The same thing happened with dietary changes, except for a low-salt diet.
Other research on dietary habits reported by a group of Americans linked daily doses of more than 1000 milligrams (mg) of calcium to a higher risk of death from cancer. In addition, the data showed that people who took adequate amounts of magnesium, zinc, and vitamins A and K had a lower risk of death, but only if they got those nutrients from food rather than from supplements. Fact sheets from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) can provide detailed information on the benefits and risks of individual vitamins and minerals, as well as herbal supplements. It is important to talk to your health care team before adding any new supplements to your regimen.
Here are seven popular supplements that experts recommend taking with care, if at all: Vitamin D: Vitamin D promotes the absorption of calcium in the body and is essential for health and well-being. It helps protect bones and prevent bone diseases such as osteoporosis. Vitamin D supplements are popular because it is difficult (if not impossible for some) to get enough from food. Our bodies produce vitamin D when bare skin is exposed to direct sunlight, but the increase in time spent indoors and the widespread use of sunscreens have minimized the amount of vitamin D that many of us get from sun exposure.
Vitamin D supplements may benefit certain people, including those at risk of deficiency, such as people who have darker skin, live with certain health conditions, and older adults. The most recent consensus statement from the American Geriatrics Society suggests that people over 65 can help reduce the risk of fractures and falls by supplementing their diet with at least 1000 IU of vitamin D per day, in addition to taking calcium supplements and eating foods rich in vitamin D. Keep in mind that vitamin D supplements and medications can interact with each other. High doses are not a good option as they can cause muscle pain, mood disorders, abdominal pain and kidney stones.
St John's Wort: St John's Wort is a plant used as tea or in capsules with purported benefits for depression, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, menopausal symptoms, insomnia, kidney and lung problems, obsessive-compulsive disorder, wound healing and more. St John's Wort may be effective in treating mild depression; however it can interact with medications such as weight-loss drugs orlistat (Xenical, Alli), several statins such as atorvastatin (Lipitor), thiazide diuretics such as Hygroton, Lozol and Microzide), and corticosteroids such as prednisone (Deltasone, Rayos, Sterapred). St John's Wort may also reduce the effectiveness of other medications such as birth control pills, chemotherapy drugs for HIV or AIDS, and medications to prevent organ rejection after a transplant.
Calcium: Calcium is essential for a strong skeleton but too much can be harmful.
More than 2500 mg per day for adults ages 19 to 50 and more than 2000 mg per day for people age 51 and older can cause problems. With calcium supplements hardening of the arteries or atherosclerosis and an increased risk of heart disease are risks although research is conflicting. The NIH recommends 1000 mg of calcium a day for women ages 19 to 50.