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Physicians Say These Vitamins are a "Waste of Money"

Don’t throw away your money on these vitamins.
FACT CHECKED BY Emilia Paluszek

When it comes to the efficacy of over-the-counter vitamins and supplements, they are certainly not all created equal. "A study published today in The New England Journal of Medicine found that adverse effects of supplements were responsible for an average of about 23,000 emergency department (ED) visits per year. That's a lot for something that is supposed to be good for you," says Susan Farrell, MD. "While the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is charged with overseeing dietary supplements, there is no safety testing or FDA approval required before a new supplement goes on the market. In addition, there are no requirements that dietary supplement packaging list potential adverse effects, nor are there standards for maximum pill size (a clear risk for older people)." Here are five vitamins doctors say are pointless—if not dangerous. Read on—and to ensure your health and the health of others, don't miss these Sure Signs You've Already Had COVID.

1

Multivitamins

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Say it isn't so—research shows that multivitamins are far less effective than a healthy diet, and essentially pointless. "We were surprised to find so few positive effects of the most common supplements that people consume," says Dr. David Jenkins, lead author of a study investigating the efficacy of popular vitamins and supplements. "Our review found that if you want to use multivitamins, vitamin D, calcium or vitamin C, it does no harm—but there is no apparent advantage either. In the absence of significant positive data—apart from folic acid's potential reduction in the risk of stroke and heart disease—it's most beneficial to rely on a healthy diet to get your fill of vitamins and minerals. So far, no research on supplements has shown us anything better than healthy servings of less processed plant foods, including vegetables, fruits, and nuts."

2

Anything That Promises To Cleanse Your Liver

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Want to buy some fancy detoxing supplements? Don't bother. Your liver and kidneys are more than capable of filtering anything toxic from your blood, and if you really want to help your liver, follow a healthy diet and cut down on alcohol. "The whole appeal of this detox market, these teas, these juices, these cleanses is this desire for magical thinking," says toxicologist Ryan Marino, MD. "People want something that'll fix a problem, and if you can buy it online, take a pill every day, there's definitely some sort of element of wanting to believe that that'll be a magical cure all. The only thing you need to detox your body naturally, and I hate to even say that because I don't think anyone really does need to detox, is just your liver and your kidneys. And if those aren't working you should seek medical attention anyways."

3

Don't Take too Much Vitamin D

Young Woman Taking Yellow Fish Oil Pill.
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Taking too much Vitamin D is not only pointless (the benefits stop at a certain point) but could even be dangerous. "Healthy people have been popping these pills, but they should not continue taking vitamin D supplements unchecked," says Muhammad Amer, M.D., M.H.S., assistant professor in the Division of General Internal Medicine at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine. "At a certain point, more vitamin D no longer confers any survival benefit, so taking these expensive supplements is at best a waste of money."

"Taking 60,000 international units (IU) a day of vitamin D for several months has been shown to cause toxicity," says Katherine Zeratsky, R.D., L.D. "This level is many times higher than the U.S. Recommended Dietary Allowance (RDA) for most adults of 600 IU of vitamin D a day."

4

Don't Take too Much Omega-3

Smiling woman taking a pill.
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Studies have shown that contrary to popular belief, omega-3 supplements do not prevent disease and are essentially a waste of your hard-earned cash. "I have many patients who are like, 'I'll take my supplement and then I won't worry about eating healthfully during the day,'" says Dr. Pieter Cohen, Cambridge Health Alliance, associate professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School. "That's really misguided. Because in this case we have absolutely no evidence that replacing a healthy meal of fish with an omega-3 supplement is better."

5

Vitamin C is Best Received From Your Food

Smiling young lady looking at her vitamins
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Vitamin C is another supplement that you are better off getting through actual food rather than a pill. "Too much vitamin C can turn the famous antioxidant into a pro-oxidant (which damages body cells), not to mention the diarrhea," says Bethany Thayer, MS, RDN.

Ferozan Mast
Ferozan Mast is a science, health and wellness writer with a passion for making science and research-backed information accessible to a general audience. Read more