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Physicians Warn These Supplements are "a Joke"

Six supplements experts say are not worth taking. 
FACT CHECKED BY Emilia Paluszek

When it comes to supplements, there's no shortage of products on the shelves advertising everything from weight loss to improving health, but do they really work? An estimated 56 percent of American adults take supplements, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, but experts say many supplements offer little to no benefit and aren't worth the money. Eat This, Not That! Health spoke with experts who warn which supplements to stay away from 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.


Branched Chain Amino Acids

amino acids

Meghan Pendleton, RD at says, "Branched Chain Amino Acids are marketed to help you improve muscle growth and strength. Amino acids are the 'building blocks' of protein, and there are three that are classified as branched chain based on their chemical structure: leucine, isoleucine and valine. Leucine and isoleucine are perhaps the more important amino acids in this mix, as they are important for stimulation of muscle protein synthesis and glucose uptake uptake by muscles. What's important to note is that a diet that is already adequate in protein provides enough of these amino acids, and so taking a branched chain amino acid supplement likely will not improve your performance or muscle growth if you simply eat enough protein throughout the day. The current RDA for protein is set at 0.8g/kg body weight, although recent research suggests that RDA may be too low, and that at least 1.2g/kg body weight may be more optimal. Still, companies that sell branched chain amino acid supplements often cite research that uses subjects whose diets lack adequate protein (like this one). So, their marketing does not fairly represent research. It won't hurt you to take branched chain amino acid supplements, it just may be expensive and unnecessary and I suggest making sure you are eating enough protein throughout the day."



kava kava supplement capsules on brown wooden plate
Shutterstock / Iryna Imago

Lisa Richards, a nutritionist and author of the Candida Diet explains, "Kava is an herbal remedy that users claim helps in reducing anxiety, aid in sleep quality, and reducing stress. However, it has several dangerous side effects especially when used often. Some users take kava as a replacement for alcohol because it has similar effects. Like alcohol, it also places the liver at risk for damage and disease like cirrhosis. It has also been shown to impact kidney health and cause disorientation, shortness of breath, and even hallucinations." 



Smiling young lady looking at her vitamins

Sarah Anderson, a cardiology and functional medicine nurse practitioner with PEAK Integrative Wellness reveals, "If you are eating a generally well balanced diet full of a variety of foods, a multivitamin is unnecessary.  Your body absorbs the nutrients from food better than from a pill.  Most of the "vitamins" in the multivitamin are water soluble vitamins, which means it's not going to harm you by taking too much.  Your body will get rid of the extra naturally through the urine.  You're essentially making expensive pee.  A healthy diet full of a variety of foods – aim for 200 different types of vegetables throughout the year and eaten seasonally – will provide your body with the necessary nutrients needed for each season." 


Krill Oil

krill oil

Dr. Seema Bonney, the founder and medical director of the Anti-Aging & Longevity Center of Philadelphia states, "Krill oil is sourced from tiny shellfish, which people take to boost their omega 3 levels. It also contains omega 6 and 9 fatty acids which are inflammatory. It's best to take omega 3 fatty acids – known as fish oils – for the anti-inflammatory and pro-cognition benefits of taking epa and dha."

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woman taking vitamin D3

"B6 is found in lots of energy foods and can cause neurologic symptoms in higher dosages," says Dr. Bonney. "Another example of where levels should be checked and supplementation based on whether and how much you actually need." 

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Fish Oil Supplements

woman taking fish oil
Shutterstock / blackzheep

Dana Ellis Hunnes PhD, MPH, RD is a senior dietitian at UCLA medical center, assistant professor at UCLA Fielding school of public health, and author with Cambridge university Press, of the new book, RECIPE FOR SURVIVAL explains, "Fish oil supplements do not make us healthier, it's the total diet quality that matters more. Also, from an environmental and sustainability perspective, not a good choice. Many fish oil supplements are from wild fish which have sustainability questions."

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A Healthy Diet Makes a Difference


Richards says, "A healthy diet can be enough to prevent needing supplements, but supplements in and of themselves are not bad. The type and quality of supplements we use are most important. Taking a general multivitamin or nutrient specific supplements like B12 and vitamin C can be beneficial and pose little risk due to their water solubility nature."

Hunnes adds, "If you eat a primarily whole food, plant-based diet full of nuts, whole grains, seeds, legumes, fruits and vegetables, you should not need to take supplements (other than perhaps B12, but plenty of omnivores need it too)."


How To Tell Your Body Is Lacking Nutrients

nurse disinfecting male arm before blood

According to Richards, "Those that find themselves needing an herbal supplement like kava may be lacking other nutrients in their diet that is causing poor sleep and anxiety. These can be indicators that a deficiency exists. Talking with your doctor or healthcare provider about these symptoms and having a detailed blood panel ran can help determine if supplements are needed."

Hunnes says, "It often takes blood tests to know if you're deficient in some micronutrient (vitamins or minerals), so you can't usually just look in the mirror and know, unless it's one of the obvious ones. Bleeding gums (for no reason, no trauma) and vit.c deficiency."

Dr. Bonney explains, "The best way to create a supplement regimen is by getting your micronutrients tested. There is no reason to guess as we have the means to look into a patient's biochemistry and ascertain what they're low in. These micronutrient levels can help guide exactly what you should be taking."

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