Supplement do's and don'ts

Fifty-percent of Americans take vitamins and supplements, according to government
surveys. Some have proven benefits.

Calcium combined with vitamin D is known to benefit bones, and it’s among the
supplements worth considering, according to Consumer Reports ShopSmart. Other
beneficial supplements include fish oil, with omega-3 fatty acids, and folic acid, for
women who are pregnant or are planning to become pregnant.

But ShopSmart says there are other vitamins and supplements that anyone who’s
healthy should skip, including vitamin A and even multivitamins. Research shows that
multivitamins don’t benefit most people’s health. They don’t, for example, decrease the
risk of heart disease or cancer.

Another vitamin warning: Don’t take more than your doctor says you need. Megadoses
can be dangerous. Too much vitamin E has been linked to a small but increased risk
of lung cancer over time. And very high doses of vitamin D could damage kidneys.
ShopSmart says that it’s easier than you think to take too much. Pay attention to the
dosage of each vitamin or supplement that you take, and go over the information with
your doctor. And don’t forget to factor in vitamin-enriched food and drinks.

Also, don’t substitute supplements for the real thing. Centrum has a new ProNutrients
Fruit & Veggie supplement. But on the back it says it’s “not intended to replace your
daily intake of fruit and vegetables.”
ShopSmart has another caution about supplements: Combining them with prescription
drugs can be dangerous. For example, there’s evidence that vitamin C reduces the
power of many chemotherapy drugs. And St. John’s wort can interfere with some birth
control. It’s always a good idea to talk to your doctor about any vitamins or supplements
you’re taking.