This one is for the ladies especially, but guys, take heed. While multiple supplements are “recommended” by TV ads, magazines an even many “medical” information websites, you may be taking more risks than you realize. So, let me tell you about 7 dietary supplements putting women at risk.
First, a little background:
Nearly half of Americans take herbal or dietary supplements daily, and these over-the-counter products are a booming industry.
- Herbal dietary supplement sales reached $6 billion yearly, based on the most recent estimates by the American Botanical Council.
Certain supplements may improve your health, but others can be ineffective or even harmful. We live in a “Buyer beware,” world.
- Many supplements on the market have not been rigorously tested, very few have shown to be of benefit and many have not even been researched, yet they boast unproven health claims.
General precautions and recommendations:
- The first thing to keep in mind is that all reliable medical experts suggest eating whole foods instead of taking multivitamins unless a doctor recommends them.
- Before buying supplements, look for the US Pharmacopeia seal (USP) on the labels, which shows that a supplement passed testing for label accuracy.
The following are the 7 Dietary Supplements Putting Women At Risk-they should be taken carefully, if at all.
- Vitamin D promotes calcium absorption in the body, and getting enough is central to health and wellbeing.
- Supplemental vitamin D is popular, offering the promise of protecting bones and preventing bone diseases like osteoporosis.
However, in many cases, healthy post-menopausal women who take low-dose vitamin D supplements (up to 400 international units, IU) might not actually need them.
- At this time, enthusiasm for high-dose vitamin D supplements is outpacing the evidence.
- More is not always better when it comes to micro-nutrient supplements, which are those your body requires in trace (small) amounts
After looking at the evidence, the results from the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force report published in the Annals of Internal Medicine show that when healthy women take low doses of vitamin D, it does not necessarily prevent them from breaking bones.
The outlook is different, however, for women who:
- Are over the age of 65
- Are deficient in vitamin D
- Have a history of falls or osteoporosis.
For them, according to the Institute of Medicine, vitamin D supplements, when prescribed by a doctor, are beneficial.
➡ As reported by a superior research facility and hospital, the Cleveland Clinic, one of the risks of getting too much vitamin D is that in healthy people, high vitamin D blood levels can trigger extra calcium absorption. This can lead to kidney stones.
➡ In addition, the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force has reported that postmenopausal women who took daily vitamin D and calcium supplements had a 17 percent increased risk of kidney stones compared to women who took a placebo.
Better options: Include whole foods such as salmon, tuna, milk, mushrooms, and fortified cereals in your daily diet.
2. St. John’s Wort – Avoid Drug Interactions
St. John’s wort is a plant used as a tea or in capsules to treat mild depression, anxiety, and sleep disorders.
Although small studies have shown St. John’s wort to be effective at treating mild depression, a large study from the National Institute Of Health concluded that the herbal remedy did no better than a placebo at decreasing symptoms of minor depression.
- Researchers suggest that improvements in depression symptoms as a result of taking St. John’s wort may have to do with the placebo effect.
- Patients’ beliefs about whether they were taking a placebo or St. John’s wort influenced their depression more so than what they actually received.
However: the biggest issue with St. John’s wort is its bad interactions with other prescribed medications.
Read more about those dietary supplements putting women at risk by clicking on the link below.
➡ RELATED: Bad Supplements: A Savvy Consumer’s Guide
A July 2014 study in the Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine found that 28 % of the time St. John’s wort was prescribed between 1993 and 2010. It was administered in dangerous combinations with antidepressant or anti-anxiety medications, statins, or oral contraceptives.
- Taking St. John’s wort can also reduce the effectiveness of your other medications — including birth control pills.
Of course, Calcium is central for strong bones and a healthy heart. But too much is not a good thing.
- An excess of calcium, which is described by the NIH as more than 2,500 mg per day for adults ages 19 to 50, and more than 2,000 mg per day for individuals 51 and over, can lead to problems.
According to the Cleveland Clinic, “Researchers believe that without taking adequate vitamin D to help absorb the calcium, the extra calcium settles in the arteries instead of the bones.”
Instead: Get calcium from your diet if you can.
- Research shows that calcium is better absorbed through food.
Calcium deficiency, called “hypocalcemia,” may be detected by routine blood tests. If you have extremely low calcium blood levels, your doctor may prescribe a calcium supplement.
Many people believe that they don’t get enough vitamins and minerals from their diet. However, the jury’s still out on whether these supplements are beneficial.
An October 2011 study published in the Archives of Internal Medicine examined data from nearly 40,000 women over 19 years.
- Surprisingly, researchers found that, on average, women who took supplements had an increased risk of dying compared with women who didn’t take supplements.
- Multivitamins did little or nothing to protect against common cancers, cardiovascular disease, or death.
However, more recent research has found several benefits to taking multivitamins as prescribed:
In a January 2015 study in the Journal of Nutrition of more than 8,000 men and women over the age of 40, it was reported that:
- Women who took a multivitamin for three or more years had a lower risk of heart disease.
- For women of childbearing age, taking prenatal vitamins with folic acid is recommended to help prevent birth defects.
- Multivitamins might also be prescribed by your doctor if you have malabsorption syndrome, a condition in which the body does not properly absorb vitamins and minerals.
But for healthy people, supplements can never be a substitute for a healthy diet.
5. Fish Oil Supplements: Choose Fish or Flaxseed Instead
Rich in omega-3 fatty acids, fish oil has been sold as a means to reduce heart disease.
However, more and more evidence shows that fish oil supplements have questionable heart benefits.
- A May 2013 study in the New England Journal of Medicine gave 6,000 people at high risk for cardiovascular disease 1,000 mg of omega-3 supplements per day for five years. In the end, however, the high-risk group fared no better in terms of cardiovascular death rates than participants who received a placebo.
Again: Taking any dietary supplements putting women at risk is no substitute for a healthy diet.
Doctors agree that the best way to get your omega-3s is from food.
- According to the Mayo Clinic, eating fish, which is rich in omega-3 fatty acids, seems to provide more benefit to your heart health than taking supplements.
- The American Heart Association (AHA) Dietary Guidelines recommend including two servings of fish per week in your diet.
- For people with heart disease, the AHA recommends having 1 gram (gm) of omega-3s per day.
- If you have high triglycerides, the AHA recommends 2 gm to 4 gm in the form of doctor-prescribed supplements.
- Other sources of omega-3s beside fatty fish include flaxseeds, walnuts, and avocados.
Kava-kava is an herb, and in concentrated forms, it has been used to treat anxiety and insomnia with mixed results.
- A 2014 review of alternative medicines for the treatment insomnia in Osteopathic Family Physician found that kava-kava could play an important role in the treatment of insomnia.
It included results from the 1990s and early 2000s that have shown that the herb can reduce anxiety and improve sleep quality in patients with insomnia and restlessness.
- Kava-kava can have serious side effects.
According to the United States National Library of Medicine, “Products labeled as kava have been linked to the development of clinically apparent acute liver injury which can be severe and even fatal.”
- In March 2002 the U.S. Food and Drug Administration issued a warning about the effects of kava-kava on the liver, prompting the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health to suspend all studies on the supplement.
- Kava-kava has also been associated with abnormal muscle spasms, and negatively interacts with a number of additional drugs, including anticonvulsants, antipsychotic medications, and drugs used for Parkinson’s disease.
Tofu, tempeh, and soy milk are all great sources of protein, fiber, and a number of minerals.
Some women also take soy in supplement form to relieve symptoms of menopause.
- However, concerns have been raised about soy supplements because studies have shown that they may contribute to an increased risk of breast cancer due to the estrogen they contain.
The American Cancer Society notes, “Research on soy and cancer is highly complex, controversial, and evolving.”
- If you’re concerned about breast cancer, stay away from soy supplements and soy-based protein.
However, soy intake from foods has not been shown to be of concern.
Stay safe to stay healthy.
Always speak to your physician before adding any supplement to your diet, and stay informed from reliable, well-researched sources for recommendations and precautions issued by trusted agencies.