Dietary Supplements: 4 things you can be doing better

by Jim Sliney, Jr.

Dietary supplement use among adults in the US rose from an average 24.5% in the early 1970s to 56% in the mid-2000s. Supplements have grown into a $30 billion a year industry as of 2011.


(Stephen Dickter/Flickr)

Can supplements really help your health? Well that's an ongoing debate but when Americans were asked

  • Almost half the people who take supplements say they do it to improve their health
  • About a third say they do it to maintain their good health
  • Less than a quarter say it is to supplement the nutritional value of their diet.//"><1>

Yet with all that supplement use, there seem to be a few things that most people don't consider.

  1. Read the labels carefully: failing to read those labels can lead to unexpected or unwelcomed side effects or under-performance of the substance. Some key points include:
    1. Calculate the serving size (eg, 1 serving = 4 pills)
    2. Take the supplement with or without food as directed
    3. Don't take the supplement along with another supplement or drug that can interfere with its efficacy
  2. Incorrect storage of supplements: do you put your pills into a weekly planner? What then? Do they sit in the refrigerator? Being refrigerated can cause them to go bad faster. Do they sit where the sun can hit them? Temperature fluctuations are bad for most medicines. Do you store them in a dry place? Moisture is especially bad for most medicines.
  3. Giving one pill too much credit: the classic example is taking //">calcium for your bone health. Calcium alone is only part of the plan. //">Vitamin D helps calcium absorb in the digestive tract and magnesium is vital to bone health as well. This is why talking to your doctor or dietician/nutritionist about your supplements is so important.
  4. Cash for health: spending a small fortune on supplements may not get you any further than making a sensible choice of supplement. The important factor is that the supplement you do buy has been quality tested and will most often display a guaranteed quality seal.//"><2>

So if you are using supplements, think about why, how, and when so you can make the most of them. Don't just buy a supplement and assume it's going to do all the work. You need to research, read, plan your day/week/month and look at your diet and overall health if you want to stay healthy. Supplements may be a big part of a wellness plan, but they're still only a part.

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