Which vitamins are worth the money?

When diet isn't enough, supplements can help.

Can taking extra vitamins, minerals or herbs make you healthier? Many of us think so: More than half of adults in the USA take one or more dietary supplements every day.

Multivitamins are most popular. A government report says such vitamins are used by nearly 40% of Americans.

For some people - such as those who are dieting, vegan, pregnant or just don't eat a nutritious variety of foods - supplements may help fill nutrient gaps; for others, the additions to their daily regimen may lead to an overconsumption of certain nutrients, which can be harmful.

Experts generally recommend we get our vitamins and minerals from food. Science has shown, however, that certain dietary supplements can help manage some health conditions and improve overall health.

Here's a look at which may be worth your money and which you should skip. Talk to your doctor before trying supplements. Many interact with prescription drugs and can have harmful side effects.


Calcium: Helps prevent bone loss and osteoporosis when taken with vitamin D; some studies suggest calcium may reduce the risk of developing high blood pressure.

There are two main forms of calcium supplements: Calcium carbonate - found in Tums and Rolaids - is best absorbed when taken with food; calcium citrate, a more expensive form, can be taken on an empty or full stomach.

Vitamin D: Helps prevent bone loss when taken with calcium; muscles and nerves need it to function properly, and it helps the immune system fight off disease. Researchers are looking into possible links to diabetes, hypertension, multiple sclerosis and certain types of cancer. Vitamin D in supplements is either D2 (ergocalciferol) or D3 (cholecalciferol) - both increase D levels in the blood.


Bitter orange: Used for weight loss, nasal congestion and heartburn. But bitter orange contains synephrine, which is similar to ephedra, banned by the Food and Drug Administration in 2004 because it raises blood pressure and is linked to heart attacks and strokes. There is little evidence that bitter orange is safer to use than ephedra.

Kava. Although research shows it may help reduce anxiety, the FDA issued a warning that kava supplements are linked to a risk of severe liver damage.

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