Dietary Supplements That Are Safe to Take, Which to Avoid: Experts

  • Insider has put together a chart showing which supplements are safe and what to avoid.
  • Doctors recommend getting nutrients from food because overdosing on supplements can cause health problems.
  • However, research shows that some supplements may be beneficial.

You probably don’t need as many supplements as you think you do.

According to the country’s leading nutrition experts, healthy adults should prioritize a balanced diet rather than gorging on supplements.

Some nutritionists recommend talking to a doctor before taking it any Dietary supplements, as overuse can lead to serious health complications.

Still, depending on your needs, some supplements may be worth the hype.

The table below shows which supplements healthy adults should stay away from and which ones they might consider taking in certain circumstances. It is based on interviews with registered dietitians and physicians, and reviews of current research on dietary supplements.

The advice in this table only applies to healthy adults. Pregnant or breastfeeding people are likely to need extra nutrients, and people who have certain health conditions or are taking certain medications might also be more prone to deficiencies.

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Nutrition experts previously told Insiders to talk to a doctor about deficiencies before taking any supplements.

Unless you have a diagnosed deficiency, skip the capsules and eat your veggies

According to the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, it’s better to get vitamins and minerals through food than through pills whenever possible.

Vitamins and minerals found in foods come with added fiber and biochemicals that are “difficult to produce” in a dietary supplement, Emma Laing, a national spokeswoman for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, previously told Insider. A balanced diet has also been shown to prevent chronic diseases and help with weight management.

Many people may not even know that they are already getting their daily amount of vitamins and minerals through everyday foods like bread, tomatoes, peppers and milk. For example, Americans spend millions each year on high-dose vitamin C supplements, even though only about 6% of Americans are deficient in this nutrient, and studies show that taking vitamin C supplements does not prevent the common cold.

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Research shows that taking certain vitamins and supplements is beneficial

Still, there are benefits to certain vitamins and supplements.

Dermatologists recommend using topical retinoids, which are derivatives of vitamin A, to increase skin cell turnover, improve discoloration, and plump skin — all ways to improve signs of aging. Many retinoid serums are available over the counter and by prescription.

Vegans, vegetarians and others without access to animal products might consider taking vitamin B12, said Dr. Eduardo Villamor, Professor of Epidemiology at the University of Michigan.

The nutrient is mainly found in animal products, and a lack of B12 can cause serious problems like anemia and nerve damage.

Sports nutritionists previously told Insiders that supplements containing creatine can help build muscle. Research has yet to find any serious health complications from overusing melatonin in adults, although too much of the supplement can cause fatigue and mood swings.

Research suggests that zinc supplements, when taken early, can slightly reduce the duration or symptoms of a cold, but the Mayo Clinic still recommends seeing a doctor because too much of the mineral can damage the nervous system.

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Taking too many supplements can lead to health problems

Many doctors caution against unsupervised supplementation because taking too many vitamin and mineral supplements can damage nerves and organs.

A man in Australia lost his ability to walk after taking 70 times the recommended amount of vitamin B6. A man in the UK went to hospital after losing 28 pounds in three months due to vitamin D overuse.

Iron supplements can contain more than 100% of your daily allowance, and taking too much iron can cause irreversible damage to the liver and brain. Some dietary supplements can interact with prescription drugs and cause problems with the heart and the body’s ability to clot blood.

A cardiologist who’s seen a rise in heart problems from herbal remedies told Insider she would never recommend anyone take supplements without consulting a doctor.

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