Marla Ahlgrimm Answers: Do Dietary Supplements Work?

Marla AhlgrimmWe all want to be at our healthiest. For some, this means taking a vitamin each morning. Marla Ahlgrimm says, however, that, with few exceptions, these supplements don’t do much to boost our overall wellness. Keep reading as the retired pharmacist opens up about OTC vitamins.

Q: How many people take vitamins?

Marla Ahlgrimm: Some studies estimate that more than half of Americans take a daily vitamin. Vitamins and other over-the-counter health supplements are a $31 billion business, and it is growing every day. As people look to extend their healthy years, the shelves become crowded with new products that claim to do just that.

Q: Do they work?

Marla Ahlgrimm: In a word: No. However, there are a few exceptions. Pregnant women are often advised to take a folic acid supplement to improve neonatal health. Further, adding an omega-3 fatty acid supplements and switching to a low salt diet may improve heart health in some people. Unfortunately, a great many researchers have also found a leak between calcium and vitamin D supplements and elevated stroke risk.

Q: Are there other uses for folic acid or omega-3 fatty acid supplements?

Marla Ahlgrimm: People who are not pregnant may also benefit from folic acid, as the nutrient is believed to lessen the chances of having a stroke by up to 20%. Omega-3 fatty acids which, it should be noted, can be found naturally in salmon and other types of fish, and may reduce coronary artery disease in about 7% of people that take it.

Q: Should people quit taking vitamins?

Marla Ahlgrimm: For the most part, vitamins do not cause adverse effects to human health. But, it’s crucial that people understand that eating a healthy diet and limiting high fat and processed foods is the best way to improve well-being in the long term. I would say that if you feel better taking vitamins, feel free to continue, but do ask your doctor for recommendations and don’t expect a morning multi to increase your lifespan.

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