NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WTVF/CONSUMER REPORTS) — Many people turn to vitamins and dietary supplements to improve nutrient deficiencies or general health. But do they really work, or are they a waste of money?
Consumer Reports took at look at some of the more popular supplements and came up with some rather interesting findings.
"It is difficult to know if a supplement is actually working, especially if you are making medication or lifestyle changes at the same time," said Lisa Gill with Consumer Reports.
According to a survey by Consumer Reports, 60% of adults in the US take at least one supplement every day. Besides vitamins and multivitamins, the most popular supplements Americans take to support overall health are fish oil, calcium, and probiotics.
"Research shows that taking fish oil can help reduce inflammation, that calcium supplements can help with bone health, and that probiotics can treat diarrhea from taking antibiotics. But so far, no research demonstrates that probiotics actually improve overall health," Gill said.
When it comes to supplements taken to strengthen immunity, one of the most popular is zinc. But unless you are actually zinc deficient, you’re probably getting the recommended amount by eating a balanced diet.
“There is also evidence that a diet rich in antioxidants such as berries or blackberries, pumpkin, carrots, and cruciferous vegetables may support brain health," Gill said.
Melatonin was by far the most popular supplement for sleep, and Consumer Reports says there's a good reason!
“Taking melatonin can help you fall asleep about 7 minutes faster, and studies show it's particularly helpful for those with jet lag or sleep disorders. But to avoid interfering with the body's own natural production of it, avoid taking high doses over long periods of time," Gill said.
After biotin, collagen was the second-most common supplement taken in the survey to make hair, skin and nails healthier. But some supplements come with serious side effects, like liver damage.
There are ten supplements that Consumer Reports says you should steer clear of: Chaparral, Coltsfoot, Comfrey, Germander, Greater Celandine, Kava, Lobelia, Pennyroyal Oil, Usnic Acid, and Yohimbe. The reason? Consumer Reports says in general, these supplements can be risky and that risk increases the larger the dosage you take and the longer you take it.
As with anything like this, of course, if you have questions or concerns, be sure to talk with your doctor.