Supplements: myths vs reality vs your wallet
Nutritional supplements are big business. Every day, ads and news stories tell us about supplements promising… to prevent heart disease and cancer, improve our memory, and much more. But is it all true?
Nutrition experts agree: the best way to stock up on vitamins and minerals is by eating right. Popping a pill is no substitute for a balanced diet. But if, like millions of Canadians, you decide to take a vitamin and mineral supplement, here are some tips:
- Don't waste your money on "natural" vitamins. Your body can't tell the difference between synthetic (man-made) vitamins and so-called "natural" ones, but synthetics are usually cheaper. The exception to this rule is vitamin E: your body absorbs the natural form better than the synthetic version. Also remember that generic and other reasonably priced brands are just as good as more expensive ones.
- Read the label to make sure the expiry date hasn't passed. Like foods, supplements should not be used after their expiry dates.
- Make sure the product is approved by Health Canada. Look for a Drug Identification Number (DIN) or Natural Health Product (NHP) number, usually on the front label, which shows that the product was approved by Health Canada.
- Don't assume that more is better. In fact, vitamins A and D, iron, zinc, and selenium can be toxic in high doses, while others can have unpleasant or serious side effects. Your safest bet is to look for supplements that provide no more than the recommended daily dose of each nutrient. See the list in Vitamins and Supplements
- Keep supplements away from children. Those pills may look and taste like candy to a child – but they can be deadly. Iron supplements cause more poisoning deaths in children than any other substance.
- Tell your doctor or your pharmacist. List all the vitamins, minerals, and other supplements you take, especially if you are fighting prostate cancer. Some vitamins and minerals can interfere with your treatments or the action of your medications.
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