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These Supplements Could Be Taking a Toll on Your Health, New Study Finds

Your supplements might not be providing you with the wellness boost you were hoping for.
FACT CHECKED BY Kristen Warfield

While some supplements are a pretty safe bet for your health—you're probably not going to go wrong taking, say, a vitamin D supplement—others may not offer you the health boost that they promise. In fact, some could actually be taking a toll on your health, leading to a range of unpleasant or even dangerous outcomes.

Now, a new study of more than 26,000 United States military service members has revealed that 20% of those who took pre- or post-workout supplements or took supplements for weight loss or muscle building experienced at least one adverse effect.

bodybuilding jar of nutritional supplement powder with pills on grey backdrop

In the study, published in the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, researchers looked at how a range of different dietary supplements impacted service members' health, checking for a wide array of adverse effects ranging from nausea to sleep disturbances to seizures. Plus, 8% of those who took supplements that were purported to be prohormones, 6% of those who took protein or amino acid supplements, and 4% of those who took herbal supplements experienced at least one such adverse effect.

Related: The #1 Best Juice to Drink Every Day, Says Science

"Since supplements do not have to be approved by the FDA before they are marketed, [you] should exercise caution before trying new products," Mascha Davis, MPH, RDN, author of Eat Your Vitamins and founder of Mini Fish, tells Eat This, Not That! "Particularly, it's important to see if supplements negatively interact with any medications, if they have been researched to be safe and effective, and ideally, they have been third party tested to verify the ingredients."

However, you don't need to go in alone. There are experts who can help you make informed decisions about which supplements to take.

"This study speaks to the importance of speaking first with a registered dietitian or doctor before starting on a new supplement – especially [if you] have food allergies or intolerances, are dealing with chronic health conditions, are pregnant and/or breastfeeding, taking any prescription medications, or planning to have surgery at some point," registered dietitian nutritionist, Malina Malkani, MS, RDN, CDN tells Eat This, Not That!

She noted that registered dietitians and doctors are trained to make the best recommendations for each individual based on trusted information, making it significantly less likely that you'll experience adverse effects.

For more on how to get smart about the supplements you take, check out these 11 Vitamins That May Be Dangerous, Warn Experts.

Clara Olshansky
Clara Olshansky (they/she) is a Brooklyn-based writer and comic whose web content has appeared in Food & Wine, Harper’s Magazine, Men's Health, and Reductress. Read more about Clara