Are vitamins worth the money?

vitaminsDo you pop vitamin pills daily to keep yourself healthy? If you do you're likely in the majority, because half of adults take vitamins daily. But are you taking the right ones and in the right amount?

If you don't know, you could be spending too much and possibly even causing your body harm. Vitamin sales have been growing at the pace of 4% annually and as more people lose health insurance, those numbers are expected to increase more rapidly. The Nutrition Business Journal expects sales to grow by 8% to a total of $9.2 billion annually as people turn to vitamins hoping they will stay healthy and avoid the doctor.

But, you shouldn't just start popping pills. For example, Vitamin A in the right dosage can help maintain healthy teeth, bones, skin and vision, but if you take too much, you can end up reducing bone density, encouraging hair loss and developing liver problems.

So how can you avoid the pitfalls of taking too many vitamins? Do your homework. If you want to use vitamins and supplements to stay healthy, do so with some professional help. I work with a doctor dual-certified in internal medicine and naturopathic medicine. Naturopathic medicine believes that the human body has an innate healing ability. Naturopathic doctors (NDs) teach their patients to use diet, exercise, lifestyle changes and cutting edge natural therapies to enhance their bodies' ability to ward off and combat disease. My doctor, using basic blood and saliva tests, helps me to determine what vitamins and minerals I need to stay healthy and avoid costly medical treatments in the future.

In addition to knowing what you should take, you also need to know what brands are safe and effective. While the FDA regulates vitamins as part of the nutritional supplement industry, it does not test the vitamins before they are put on the shelves. You can get information about quality from It's new study found defects in more than 30% of supplements with many exceeding tolerable intake limits.

Generally found that products sold by vitamin chains tend to be more reliable than drugstore brands. They also found that Wal-Mart and Costco vitamin lines are usually worth considering. For example, in a recent test found that Equate-Mature Multivitamin 50+ sold by Wal-Mart was just as good as the name brand Centrum Silver, but at half the price.

Another thing to look for when buying vitamins in the certification symbols. The two most commonly known are the United States Pharmacopeia (USP) and NSF International. While the absence of one of these seals may not signify poor quality, at least you know what you're buying has been tested if you see one of these seals.

If you want to go it alone, you can research vitamins at the Vitamins and Nutrition Center. There you can find out extensive background on each vitamin and what it does. You'll also find dosage recommendations. But do be careful or you could end up with higher doctor's bills rather than lowering them. You also could end up wasting your money on unneeded pills.

Lita Epstein has written more than 25 books including Surviving a Layoff: A Week-by-Week Guide to Getting Your Life Back Together and Working After Retirement for Dummies.

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