Health Watch -- Vitamin Advice (Part 2)

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.

Vitamins can be good for you. But they can also be hazardous to your health.

Nutrition experts at UT Southwestern Medical Center at Dallas say you should always be careful when taking any kind of dietary supplements.

Dr. Jo Ann Carson, a dietitian who teaches clinical nutrition at UT Southwestern, says that while you shouldn't rely on supplements to meet your nutritional needs, there are some cases when supplements are probably necessary.

Most people don't get recommended amounts of calcium from their diets. Adults under the age of 50 need about 1,000 milligrams of calcium a day, while adults over 50 need 1,300. But a glass of milk provides only about 300 milligrams. That means most adults probably need to take a calcium supplement in order to prevent bone loss as they age. Iron is another mineral that many people may not get enough of from their diets.

Some supplements can keep drugs from working properly. For example, St. John's Wort, a popular herbal supplement used to treat depression, is not good for HIV patients who are taking certain drugs. If you're taking any kind of supplement, make sure your doctor knows about it. Taking too much of one nutrient can also keep other nutrients from working properly.

Talk to your doctor if you think you need dietary supplements.


April 2004