Adding vitamins or supplements to your diet is a sticky issue for us as physicians. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) does not regulate supplements. This means you cannot be sure of the ingredients in each supplement.
Some supplement companies, however, do go the extra mile and pay to have their products tested by a third-party resource. This is a seal of approval that the supplement contains what's stated on the label. Unfortunately, there are no regulations for third-party testers either.
For many supplements, there needs to be more research on how they may interact with other pharmaceuticals. Meaning a supplement may have adverse reactions with your prescribed medication or another supplement you are taking.
Those concerns aside, there are certain supplements we do recommend that can be added to your healthy diet. Remember, supplements are just that - they supplement a healthy diet.
Vitamins and Supplements - What's Recommended?
Vitamin D is vital for bone health, immune function, and overall health. Many people, especially those living in colder climates, don't get enough vitamin D from sunlight and diet alone so supplements may be recommended.
Folic acid prevents neural tube defects in a developing baby when women take it before and during early pregnancy.
Some older individuals, vegetarians, vegans, and people who have conditions that affect their ability to absorb B-12 from foods, should take a Vitamin B-12 supplement.
Calcium is essential for bone health and is typically found in dairy products, leafy greens, and fortified foods. Supplements may be recommended for those who have low bone density or osteoporosis or those who don't get enough calcium from their diet.
Especially for elderly individuals with a poor diet, multivitamins can help you get all the essential vitamins and minerals your body needs. Supplementing your already balanced healthy diet. Research shows multivitamins do not reduce your risk of heart disease or cancer or mental decline.
Omega-3 fatty acids
Omega-3s are essential fatty acids that play a role in brain and heart health. They can be found in fatty fish, such as salmon, but supplements can also be taken. Research has shown some cardiovascular benefits to taking these supplements.
Probiotics are good bacteria that may help maintain a healthy gut microbiome. They can be found in fermented foods like yogurt and kefir, but supplements may also be recommended, especially during and for several weeks after taking a course of antibiotics. Research is uncertain about the benefits of probiotics.
Magnesium is important for muscle and nerve function, blood sugar regulation, and bone health. It's found in whole grains, leafy greens, and nuts, but supplements may be recommended for those with low magnesium levels.
Never take potassium supplements unless prescribed by your doctor. Too much potassium can be harmful.
Ask Your Doctor First
Talk to your doctor before taking a new supplement, especially if you are on prescription medications or have existing health issues.