Millions of Americans start their day by popping a few vitamins or other supplements, be it for weight loss, extra energy, better memory, or some other promise. While this sounds like a healthy habit, it may be just the opposite.
Why? Because the supplement industry is largely unregulated. Supplement manufacturers can legally sell their products without first having to demonstrate that they are safe and effective. So those capsules you swallow could have anything in them, from known toxins, to heavy metals, to harmful levels of minerals. And you’d never know this, until you start experiencing unpleasant symptoms or developing a dangerous condition. At best, what you’re taking may be completely ineffective, and thus a waste of your precious dollars.
One last scary fact? Many supplements are made in China (whose bad reputation for exporting contaminated products is well-deserved), but no Chinese supplement factory has ever been inspected by the FDA. Crazy, right?!
What can you do?
- Avoid supplements in these categories: weight loss, sexual enhancement, and bodybuilding.
- Remember that more is not better. Even essential vitamins and minerals can cause bad side effects or be dangerous when taken in large doses. If taking a multi-vitamin, look for one that has no more than 100% DV (daily value) of each vitamin. (Avoid products that claim something like “More than 2000% of the recommended dose of ____”).
- Consult with your doctor before you start taking anything. Even if what you’re taking is healthy in some circumstances, it may not be right for you due to interactions with other prescription drugs, health conditions, etc.
- Report any problems you have to the FDA so they can record it and follow up.
- Do your research (in the right places…not anywhere where someone would profit from your decision).
- National Institutes of Health, Office of Dietary Supplements
- The FDA, which issues alerts, advisories, etc.
- Consumer Reports.
Morals of the Story
- My usual: If it sounds too good to be true, it is!
- Eat your vitamins in the form of wholesome foods.