5 tips for using supplements safely
With lax regulation and little oversight from the Food and Drug Administration, consumers need to be especially vigilant about safety when it comes to dietary supplements. Here are five steps recommended by our medical advisers and safety experts:
1. Rather than pills, focus on getting your nutrients through a balanced diet that includes plenty of plant foods, which have been shown to provide a wide range of health benefits that supplements haven’t been able to match.
2. Talk with your doctor about any supplements you might be considering—because you’re concerned about a specific nutrient deficiency, say—and ask whether he or she agrees.
3. Tell your health providers about any supplements you already take, because they can interact with medication. For example, St. John’s wort and vitamin D might decrease the effectiveness of many drugs, including birth control pills, heart medications, and drugs for HIV/AIDS.
4. If your doctor does recommend a supplement, look for products that have been verified by a credible third party such as the U.S. Pharmacopeia. You can find a list of verified products at uspverified.org.
5. Avoid sex-enhancement products, bodybuilding supplements, and weight-loss aids, the categories that get recalled the most for safety problems. And definitely avoid ingredients known to be dangerous, such as the three above.
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