Should You Take a Dietary Supplement?
August 01, 2022
If you are someone who has used a dietary supplement, such as a multivitamin, you are not alone. Studies show that over 50% of Americans have used a supplement in the last 30 days. Unfortunately, not all dietary supplements are proven to be safe. Each one is different and many are not scientifically tested. We spoke to Vandita Samavedi, MD, with Overlake Clinics Concierge Care, to learn more about dietary supplements, their potential risks, and the best ways to get all the vitamins and minerals our bodies need.
Q: What are dietary supplements?
A: Adding anything to your regular diet to improve your health or healing is considered a dietary supplement. Dietary supplements may include vitamins, minerals, herbs and certain food products.
Q: Are dietary supplements safe?
A: Many patients ask about multivitamin supplements and use these based on the assumption that they cannot hurt and might help. The United States Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) remains neutral about multivitamin use and suggests providers use their judgment when recommending. That said, the micronutrients found in multivitamins have a crucial role in our metabolism and it is very important to take the right amount. Taking the wrong amount, especially in high doses, can cause various side effects and interfere with certain prescription medications. In other cases, additional supplements are actually necessary for individuals managing acute or chronic illnesses. To be safe, don't self-prescribe; always check with your healthcare provider before taking any dietary supplements, including multivitamins.
Q: Which dietary supplements should I avoid?
A: As of June 2022, the USPSTF recommends against the use of beta carotene or vitamin E supplements—often used for the prevention of cardiovascular disease or cancer.
Q: What is the best way to get all the vitamins and minerals our bodies need?
A: While reaching for a bottle of vitamins or supplements is tempting, the best way to get all your vitamins and minerals is through a healthy, balanced diet. The American Heart Association and the 2020-2025 Dietary Guidelines for Americans both recommend that nutritional requirements be met by eating a variety of nutrient dense foods in moderation rather than by taking supplements.
- Instead of taking a beta carotene supplement, consume natural sources containing beta carotenes, such as carrots, sweet potatoes, winter squash, mangoes, cantaloupes, and dark green leafy vegetables, like spinach, chard, and lettuce. These foods can provide a sufficient amount of nutrients without the fear of toxicity.
- Instead of taking a vitamin E supplement, consider eating foods rich in vitamin E, including, almonds, sunflower seeds, pine nuts, avocadoes, fish and sweet peppers. Adults can safely consume these to get the recommended 15 mg daily.
If you are considering taking a dietary supplement or would like to discuss any supplements you are currently taking, schedule an appointment with an Overlake healthcare provider or registered dietitian. Visit Overlake’s Outpatient Nutrition Services to learn more.