Health Watch -- Vitamin Advice (Part 1)

Health Watch is a Public Service of the Office of News and Publications and is intended to provide general information only and should not replace the advice of a medical professional. You should contact your physician if you have questions about any of these topics.

If you decide to take vitamin supplements, you should know your ABCs.

When it comes to supplements, A, B and C are important kinds of vitamins. But nutrition experts at UT Southwestern Medical Center at Dallas say there's something else to remember - Always Be Careful.

Dr. Jo Ann Carson, a dietitian who teaches clinical nutrition at UT Southwestern, says that while some supplements may be beneficial, some can also be dangerous when taken improperly. She offers some important tips for using dietary supplements.

The first thing to be aware of is that dietary supplements - including vitamins and herbal remedies - aren't regulated by the government the way drugs and foods are. That means they haven't been extensively tested for effectiveness, and their contents aren't regulated or monitored. Most health claims on supplement labels aren't based on scientific studies, and most supplements haven't been tested for interaction with drugs or other supplements.

How do you learn about supplements and choose the right one? Dr. Carson says the Internet does provide a wealth of good information. But it also provides a lot of misleading information. Don't look for information on supplements from a Web site that sells them.

Although there are supplements for just about every nutrient imaginable, supplements can't make up for a poor diet. You're not going to get the same benefits from eating poorly and taking vitamins as you would from a balanced, nutritious diet.


April 2004