If you were to spend time walking through a health food or vitamin store, you would be led to believe it was necessary to load up on a pantry full of supplements to feel your best. However, research says there are many supplements that don't work, whether it's because you don't actually need or them or because they don't even get absorbed by your body. Rather than waste your money buying vitamins or powders that are just going to be flushed out, you'll want to just stick to supplements when a doctor has recommended you needed them or opt to get all the nutrients you need directly from your diet.
"Nutrients, like medications, should be used wisely, internist Jacob Teitelbaum, MD tells Bustle. "Although quite safe overall, not all are beneficial, and some present safety issues, although dramatically less than medications."
Sometimes, it is not possible for a person to get most of their nutrients from their diet, which would then be a case where certain supplements are needed and should be based on what is lacking. It's also important to note that synthetic vitamins tend to be far less effective than whole food vitamins. However, in general, these seven common supplements are not worth taking, according to science.
"The bottom line is most Americans are not deficient in this vitamin," Arielle Levitan M.D., author of The Vitamin Solution: Two Doctors Clear the Confusion About Vitamins and Your Health, tells Bustle. "It is available in many food sources, and because it is fat soluble, it stays with you for a long time after you consume it." If your doctor says you have a deficiency that is one thing, but generally it may not be something to worry about.
"This B vitamin was long touted for it's beneficial effect on cholesterol," says Dr. Levitan. "However, it turns out that studies do not show it to be beneficial to heart health or mortality." In fact, one study published in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology found that taking niacin was linked to a higher risk of death by any cause. "In addition, taking niacin frequently causes difficult side effects such as flushing and feeling poorly after ingesting it," says Dr. Levitan. "It has also been shown to cause liver damage in excessive doses."
3High-Dose Vitamin C
"Vitamin C is extremely prevalent in the American diet, so much so that the FDA is taking the nutrient off the new food label because they don't consider it a 'nutrient of concern,'" registered dietitian Natalie Rizzo, MS, RD tells Bustle. Research from the same study abovce found vitamin C to be an ineffective supplement. And contrary to popular belief, it does not reduce the incidence of colds. "There’s no need to overdose on Vitamin C to prevent catching a cold," she says
5Red Yeast Rice
Like niacin, this herbal product has often been used for its role in cholesterol reduction. "Although it can help lower these numbers, it often does so because it contains statin drugs (the medications used to treat cholesterol)," says Dr. Levitan. "The problem is that in this form, the dosing is inconsistent and people who take it are not being monitored for liver testing, muscle enzymes, and the other things that are recommended when taking prescription statin drugs."
Calcium is another supplement that can lead to an increased risk of mortality, according to the same study from the Journal of the American College of Cardiology. "We are not a calcium-deficient society, and the effects of calcium supplementation on bone density are minimal," says Dr. Teitelbaum. "The concern is that calcium supplementation could cause increased calcification of blood vessels. If calcium is taken, it should be combined with other nutrients (magnesium, vitamin D, and vitamin K) that direct the calcium into bone instead of the blood vessels." Speak with your doctor if you are planning on taking calcium supplements to see if it is necessary for you.
Synthetic forms of vitamin E are not recommended at high doses because they cause deficiencies of other forms, says Dr. Teitelbaum. One analysis from Johns Hopkins University found that taking daily doses of vitamin E that exceed 400 international units (IU) can increase the risk of death.
When in doubt, ask your doctor before taking any supplements.