Most herbal and vitamin supplements have not held up to scrutiny in controlled trials; some have turned out to be harmful. Even multivitamins are questionable; a large study released in 2009 showed no improvement in cancer or heart disease rates among women who took multivitamins. Another study linked multivitamins to an increase in cancer. Don’t believe the advertising claims – multivitamins and many other supplements are not necessary for good health.

It can be confusing to know which supplements are helpful, but the following have held up to scrutiny and are recommended: Vitamin D: 2,000 I.U. daily (avoid generics) and Omega-3’s.

Vitamin D is known to be important for our skin and bones, and it may help fight hypertension and autoimmune diseases. Recently, adequate levels of vitamin D have been linked to lowered rates of cancer, especially colorectal cancer. People who live in cold climates are often low in Vitamin D, as they are not in the sun enough. Most need to take a Vitamin D supplement. The latest studies suggest that adults need at least 2000 international units a day. Avoid the generic; use a name brand. If you take calcium with added D, you may still need to take an extra D supplement. Do not take more than 4,000 units of Vitamin D without consulting your physician.

Many studies have shown the benefits of Omega-3’s for the heart, for moods, and possibly for headaches.  Eating fish twice a week is a good goal, particularly fatty fish such as tuna, salmon, trout and mackerel.  Fish oil capsules are also beneficial.  Read the ingredients on the bottle and choose the brand with the most EPA and DHA.  One or two capsules a day is recommended.  Flaxseed capsules are also helpful.  Other sources of Omega-3’s in the diet are tofu, soybeans, walnuts and canola oil.

After 45, most people, particularly post-menopausal women should take calcium supplements.  Citrocal caplets plus D are a good form of calcium (315mg.) and vitamin D (200 IU).  The usual dose is one or two tablets, twice a day; consult your physician.

Coenzyme Q10 (CoQ10) is a crucial compound, important for your heart, muscles and nerves.  It is naturally produced by your body.  However, the statins (cholesterol-lowering drugs like Simvastatin, Lipitor, Pravochol, Vytorin and Crestor) deplete the body’s coq10.  Studies have indicated a possible benefit from coq10 for migraine and the heart.  I suggest taking 200mg. per day of coq10 if you take one of the statin drugs.  It has not yet been proven that it helps the muscles, but coq10 is generally safe and may prevent headaches.

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