Supplements: Sorting Fact from Fiction

The news is filled with stories about the benefits of vitamins -- this one helps prevent prostate cancer, that one helps curtail diabetes. But with 29,000 dietary supplement products on the market, it's hard to keep track of what helps whom -- and how much it actually does for you.

Dr. Andrew Weil, an integrated medicine specialist and author of the bestselling "Healthy Aging," shared his tips on what supplements people should be taking every day.

The Multivitamin

People should take a daily multivitamin. The body needs these vitamins every day. Our main source of them is fruits, and vegetables and whole foods, and most people are not eating those in sufficient amounts, or even every day. So the multivitamin is insurance for gaps in the diet. And even if you are eating fruits and veggies everyday, it's not a bad thing.

Choose a multivitamin by reading the labels. There are some things that definitely should and shouldn't be on the label. The multivitamin should not contain any pre-formed vitamin A, which is usually called retinol. Don't get a multivitamin that has iron in it.

You do want vitamin D3. If the label says vitamin D2, then it's not the good kind of vitamin D.

Take More Vitamin D

There's research coming out really month by month showing vitamin D prevents many kinds of cancer and multiple sclerosis. We used to think vitamin D was just necessary for bone health, but now we're seeing it prevent a lot of other diseases.

But make sure you're taking D3. So often, you see orange juice or foods that say they're vitamin D fortified. But many times, those are fortified with D2. Vitamin D has to be taken with fat. Taking a vitamin D pill with orange juice isn't going to work; it won't stick to you.

Omega 3 Fatty Acids

Take one gram of fish oil every day. The body needs adequate intake every day for optimum mental and physical health, and there are not many dietary sources. You can really only find it naturally in oily fish from cold water [salmon, herring, sardines]. It helps prevent heart disease, aging, cancer and dementia.

Co-Q-10

People should also take the antioxidant Co-Q-10. It helps muscle function, heart function and brain function. It is absolutely necessary for people with heart disease. Co-Q-10 is made naturally in your body, but more doesn't hurt.

Herbal Tonics

Tonics are natural substances, which, taken over time, increase general resistance to illness and encourage longevity. There are many different ones, and they're worth learning about and experimenting with. If you're lacking in energy or get sick a lot, these could be very useful to you.

How to Choose a Supplement

When it comes to supplements, there's not necessarily a correlation between price and quality, which is important to know. Start by reading the label. Be careful of the milligram amount you're getting per capsule.

If the recommended dose is 1,000 milligrams and the pill only contains 200 milligrams, then you're going to be taking a lot of pills every day just to reach that dosage, so pay attention to the details.

Try to get brand-name recommendations. Sadly, many doctors haven't learned about supplements in medical school, so your doctor may not be able to advise you on that. To find the best brands, do your homework. Either get names of products from people you trust, or go on the Internet and look these supplements up. Check how the different brands do quality control. Ideally, pharmacists will be able to help; but again, they aren't getting this in their education any more than our physicians are.

For more information, visit healthyaging.com.

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