Are Daily Supplements Good or Bad for You?

Learn about the potential benefits and risks associated with taking dietary supplements.

Are Daily Supplements Good or Bad for You?

If used correctly, certain dietary supplements can be beneficial in reducing the risk of certain diseases and improving your quality of life. Manufacturers can add vitamins, minerals and other supplement ingredients to the foods you eat, particularly breakfast cereals and beverages. This means that you may be consuming more of these ingredients than you think, and more may not be better. Taking more than you need costs more and may also increase the risk of side effects.

For example, too much vitamin A can cause headaches and liver damage, reduce bone strength, and cause birth defects. Too much iron causes nausea and vomiting and can damage the liver and other organs. The idea of getting our nutrients straight from a pill is appealing, but supplements don't always deliver on the promise of better health. Some can even be dangerous, especially when taken in amounts greater than recommended.

Many people choose to take supplements, but taking them in excess or for too long could be harmful. The Department of Health and Social Care recommends certain supplements for certain groups of people who are at risk of suffering from a deficiency. The truth is that supplements can be harmful when they aren't medically necessary or don't provide any therapeutic benefit. There is also a risk of interactions, which can cause any medication you're taking to lose its effectiveness or cause unwanted and even harmful side effects.

Before taking any disease-prevention supplement, it's important to know if the potential benefits outweigh the risks. Children ages 6 months to 5 years should take vitamin supplements containing vitamins A, C, and D every day. The FDA attempts to regulate the industry by using post-market surveillance measures, such as reporting adverse events, consumer complaints, inspecting dietary supplement companies, and monitoring imported products. The federal government can take legal action against companies and websites that sell dietary supplements when companies make false or misleading statements about their products, if they promote them as treatments or cures for diseases, or if their products are not safe. However, supplements cannot replace the variety of foods that are important to a healthy eating routine. To keep the public informed, the FDA's Center for Drug Evaluation and Research maintains a database of contaminated products marketed as dietary supplements on its website. Most people consider taking a dietary supplement at some point in their life to improve their health.

But most people don't need to take vitamin supplements and can get all the vitamins and minerals they need if they eat a healthy, balanced diet. It's important to tell your healthcare providers (including doctors, dentists, pharmacists, and dieticians) about any dietary supplements you are taking. You might see a compelling advertisement on TV or on social media, or you might hear a friend talk about how a particular supplement benefited him. The FDA has established good manufacturing practices (GMP) that companies must follow to help ensure the identity, purity, concentration and composition of their dietary supplements. Dietary supplements come in a variety of forms, including tablets, capsules, gummies and powders, as well as energy drinks and bars. Improving your diet with supplements can be an effective way to treat deficiencies or improve your nutritional status.

Products sold as dietary supplements come with a supplemental information label that lists the active ingredients, the amount per serving (dose), and other ingredients such as fillers, binders, and flavorings. Popular supplements include vitamins D and B12; minerals such as calcium and iron; herbs such as echinacea and garlic; and products such as glucosamine, probiotics and fish oils. Taking dietary supplements can be beneficial when done correctly. However it is important to remember that most people don't need to take vitamin supplements if they eat a healthy balanced diet. It is also important to consult with your healthcare provider before taking any supplement to ensure that it is safe for you to take.