Does This Daily Habit Have Hidden Dangers?

Do you take a daily vitamin supplement?

Surveys suggest that over half of all Americans take dietary supplements daily or regularly.

Vitamins and minerals are essential to good health, and supplements can sometimes be a helpful way to ensure you’re getting enough of these essential nutrients.

But more often than not, they are unnecessary, and in some cases, they may even be harmful.

Supplements Are Not Overseen by the FDA

The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) does not regulate dietary supplements like it regulates medications. They do not test supplements for safety or effectiveness before they are sold, and they do not require manufacturers to prove their supplement products are safe or effective.

This lack of regulation means that there isn’t much guarantee that the supplement you’re taking will help you or that it is safe for you. It might not even contain the ingredients it claims to have.

This also means that there can be big variations in quality between different brands selling the same supplement, so you often won’t know what you’re getting.

Too Much Supplementation Can Be Harmful

While deficiencies in specific vitamins and minerals can lead to health problems, it can also be problematic to get too much of these nutrients.

For example, taking too much vitamin D from dietary supplements can lead to kidney stones, and excess calcium can cause atherosclerosis (stiff arteries) and increase your risk of heart disease.

When you get your nutrients from whole foods, you will unlikely consume too much of them. Whole food sources will also supply you with fiber and other phytochemicals, which will help you absorb the nutrients more effectively and protect you against disease.

Herbal Supplements May Interact With Other Medications

If you take any medication, it is essential to know that herbal supplements may interact with them.

For example, St. John’s wort can decrease the effectiveness of birth control pills and chemotherapy and can even be dangerous when taken with certain antidepressants and heart medications.

Before you start taking any supplement, be sure to talk to your doctor about any potential risks and benefits. Trying to treat yourself with dietary supplements could interfere with the informed treatment plan your doctor has put together for you.

You Might Be Wasting Your Money

There’s a good chance that you don’t even need to be taking supplements.

If you eat a healthy, balanced diet and do not have any underlying health conditions that require special attention, you are probably already getting all the nutrients you need from your food.

Supplements are not a medication that will make you healthy or cure disease. They can sometimes be helpful if you have a specific deficiency, but they are generally unnecessary.

While some claim that supplements can “boost your immune system” or help you “detox,” there is no scientific evidence to support these claims. If you are nutrient deficient, your immune system may not function properly, but taking above-normal, excess amounts through supplementation will not “boost” your health.

Supplements are not a substitute for a healthy diet and lifestyle. Eating a nutritious diet, exercising regularly, and managing stress are all much better ways to improve your health and well-being.