Friday, October 16, 2009

Be Supplement Savvy

Are your friends and family recommending supplements or the latest diets to you? Are you confused about what to take or eat? With all the health claims on supplements, are you afraid to stop taking them in case they are essential for your health?

If so, refer to the 10 Red Flags before buying supplements in the future. 
Red Flags of Junk Science
1. Recommendations that promise a quick fix
2. Claims that sound too good to be true
3. Simple conclusions drawn from a complex study
4. Recommendation based upon a single study
5. Dramatic statements that are refuted by a reputable scientific organization
6. Recommendations based upon studies without peer review
7. Recommendations based upon studies that ignore differences among individuals or groups
8. Dire warnings of danger from a single product
9. Lists of "good" and "bad" foods
10. Recommendations made to help sell a product, or by the manufacturer itself
Source: The Food and Nutrition Science Alliance (FANSA)

More tips:

· If you have high blood pressure, hypoglycemia or heart disease, avoid ginseng supplements.

· Megadoses of ginseng cause insomnia. Don’t take if you have trouble with sleep.

· High doses of chromium can cause DNA damage.

· Hearing about vitamins that don’t sound right, like Vitamin B15, also known as pangamate? There is no such vitamin. No research has been done to study its effects, according to The Health Robbers. Don’t waste money on this “phony vitamin”.

· Consumer Reports recently advised athletes to stop taking sports supplements. Not only is evidence “sketchy at best'' that pills, drinks and powders actually increase energy or build muscles, but too little is known about the safety of sports supplements for adults and even less for children.

· Encourage your government to regulate herbal supplements so you know exactly what you are getting.

· If iodine is in any of the supplements you take, read the label carefully. The upper limit for iodine is 1,100 micrograms a day to avoid damage to the thyroid.

· Studies are mixed when proving a benefit for consuming zinc lozenges during the onset of a cold. If you think it helps, go ahead!

· Avoid taking male hormones, androstenedione, for athletic reasons. Researchers find this supplement neither effective nor safe and it is harmful for blood fat levels, which increases your risk for heart disease.

· If you want to use flax oil, buy it in small quantities and store in the freezer. If it becomes rancid and smells odd, it means it's been oxidized and has lost its therapeutic properties.

· Protein supplements are not a good replacement for eating naturally protein-rich foods. Instead of popping a pill, look for protein in meats, milk, cheese, fish, and nuts.

· Before you decide to take a calcium supplement, plan to drink or eat calcium-containing foods: milk, cheese and yogurt.

· If you are taking calcium supplements or eating and drinking dairy products, spread your intake throughout the day for better absorption.

· The best source of vitamin D, other than sitting in the sun for a few minutes daily, is dairy foods made with fortified milk. Other sources are liver, eggs, and fatty fish. Beware of vitamin D supplements, though: high levels of the vitamin can cause serious toxic effects.

· Garlic and ginkgo supplements act as blood thinners. Let your doctor know how much and how often you’re taking these supplements, especially pre-op, to prevent excess bleeding.

· If you’re in an emergency situation, your doctor will need to have your herb and supplement information in your medical records, to be sure there are no harmful reactions.

· Peppermint may cause contact dermatitis. If you are taking this herb and develop a skin condition, stop. Contact your doctor if the symptoms don’t disappear.

· ALWAYS check with your dietitian before taking a supplement.