These supplements are popular. What do they actually do?

Many people turn to vitamins and dietary supplements to improve nutrient deficiencies or general health. Do they really work, or are they a waste of money, and even dangerous?

Consumer Reports looked into some of the most popular supplements.

According to a survey by Consumer Reports, 60% of adults in the US take at least one supplement every day.

“It’s difficult to know whether a supplement is actually working, especially if you are making medication or lifestyle changes at the same time,” said Consumer Reports’ Lisa Gill.

In addition to vitamins and multivitamins, the most popular supplements Americans take to support overall health are fish oil, calcium, and probiotics.

“Research shows that taking fish oil can help reduce inflammation, that calcium supplements can help with bone health, and that probiotics can treat diarrhea from taking antibiotics. But so far, no research demonstrates that probiotics actually improve overall health,” Gill said.

When it comes to supplements taken to strengthen immunity, one of the most popular is zinc. But unless you are actually zinc deficient, you’re probably getting the recommended amount by eating a balanced diet.

“There is also evidence that a diet rich in antioxidants such as berries or blackberries, pumpkin, carrots, and cruciferous vegetables may support brain health,” Gill said.

Melatonin was by far the most popular supplement for sleep.

“Taking melatonin can help you fall asleep about seven minutes faster, and studies show it’s particularly helpful for those with jet lag or sleep disorders,” Gill said. “But to avoid interfering with the body’s own natural production of it, avoid taking high doses over long periods of time.”

After biotin, collagen was the second-most common supplement taken in the survey to make hair, skin, and nails healthier.

But some supplements come with serious side effects, like liver damage. Consumer Reports recommends avoiding chaparral, coltsfoot, and comfrey.

In general, risk increases the larger the dosage and the longer the supplement is taken. Here are 10 risky supplements that Consumer Reports, with the help of a panel of doctors and researchers, said you should steer clear of:

Greater Celandine
Pennyroyal oil
Usnic acid

It’s best to consult your doctor before taking dietary supplements and vitamins. If they’re not needed, you could be wasting your money.

If you take too much, they could be detrimental to your health.


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