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The #1 Worst Supplements That Are a Rip-Off

Don't waste your money on these vitamins, according to experts.

Millions of Americans take vitamins daily to stay healthy, but according to some experts, they're not adding the nutritional benefit you think. "If you are already getting the recommended amount of nutrients by eating a variety of fruit, vegetables, cereals, dairy, and protein, supplements are seldom of value" says, Morton Tavel, MD., Clinical Professor Emeritus of Medicine, Indiana University School of Medicine and author of Health Tips, Myths and Tricks: A Physician's Advice.  But there's other issues with taking supplements, explains Dr. Jagdish Khubchandani, MBBS, Ph.D. Professor of Public Health New Mexico State University. "The first major and a real serious problem is lack of regulation and testing despite the popularity of vitamins and dietary supplements. So, as is, no vitamin or supplement could come  with a guarantee of effectiveness given that we don't know what is in the pill. This is a global problem despite the fact that the global vitamin and supplement business could be way above $100 billion per year." Eat This, Not That! Health talked to medical experts who revealed which supplements are not worth the money and why.  Read on—and to ensure your health and the health of others, don't miss these Sure Signs You've Already Had COVID.


Vitamin A

vitamin a supplement
Kate Hliznitsova / Unsplash

Tavel says, "Few people in the U.S. are deficient in this vitamin. A retinol form—which comes from animal sources such as eggs, liver, and whole milk—is readily absorbed, and even strict vegetarians can usually meet their needs by eating five servings a day of produce, including dark green leafy vegetables and orange and yellow fruit. Too much retinol can cause birth defects and liver abnormalities, and might harm bones."


B Vitamins

Person taking out Vitamin B12 pills out of bottle.

According to Tavel, "Most people get plenty through their diet. Exceptions include strict vegetarians, who might need extra vitamin B12, which is found in animal-derived foods. The estimated 10 to 30 percent of people over age 50 who don't have enough stomach acid to extract B12 from food might benefit from supplementation. Also women who are pregnant—or trying to get pregnant—should take 400 micrograms a day of extra folic acid (vitamin B9) along with B12 to help prevent birth defects.In doubtful cases, levels of B12 in the blood can determine the need for supplementation."


Vitamin C

vitamin c

"Although previously thought that 200 milligrams or more of this vitamin taken daily might improve cold symptoms in smokers and seniors, this information has been largely discredited, and there is no credible data to suggest it will prevent colds," Tavel explains. 

Dr. Khubchandani adds, "Vitamin C pills could possibly be the least useful supplement. This vitamin is commonly available in citrus fruits and supplementation may not have much impact. The wider claim that Vit C pills may help with common cold has also been disputed. Yet, it remains a very popular supplement."


Vitamin D

vitamin d in the sun

Get outside and get some sunshine. Tavel says: "If you get some midday sun exposure during the warmer months and regularly consume vitamin D-rich foods, such as fatty fish, eggs, and fortified dairy products, you probably don't need to take a supplement. People who are middle-aged or older, are overweight, or have darker skin might need supplements. If you're unsure about your vitamin D status, ask your doctor to test your blood to determine whether you have an adequate level of this vitamin in your body."


Vitamin E

vitamin e

According to Tavel, "Although originally thought to be beneficial, two comprehensive analyses have linked as little as 400 IU a day to a small but statistically significant increase in mortality from cancer. Moreover, vitamin E may inhibit blood clotting, so it shouldn't be taken with blood thinners."



Smiling young lady looking at her vitamins

There's been a lot of debate over multivitamins and if they're beneficial. Tavel doesn't believe they are.  "Large clinical trials have repeatedly found that multivitamins don't improve the average person's health. People who might need a multivitamin include women who are pregnant, breast-feeding, or trying to conceive; dieters consuming fewer than 1,200 calories a day or cutting out an entire food group (carbs, for example); and those with medical conditions that affect digestion and food absorption. Otherwise, you're wasting your money on these products!"

Dr. Jae Pak, M.D., of Jae Pak Medical adds, "In my opinion, most multivitamins are probably a waste of money. They're not regulated by the government, so there are a lot of question marks surrounding the purity and quality of them. But the biggest reason why I see multivitamins as a waste of money is because you really don't need them if you eat a nutritious, balanced diet. If you're currently taking a multivitamin, I challenge you to look at the label and then do a little research on which foods are rich in those compounds. From there, make a grocery list and get to cooking. The bottom line is that multivitamins are called supplements for a reason — because they are intended to enhance — not replace — healthy meals. I encounter many people who seem to believe that taking a daily multivitamin takes precedence over adopting regular healthy eating habits, and that's just backwards." And to get through this pandemic at your healthiest, don't miss these 35 Places You're Most Likely to Catch COVID.

Heather Newgen
Heather Newgen has two decades of experience reporting and writing about health, fitness, entertainment and travel. Heather currently freelances for several publications. Read more about Heather