Best Sources for Checking Out Dietary Supplements
Here are the first places I go when I have questions about dietary supplements. For an old guy, I'm pretty comfortable with online research, but I prefer reading from the page than from the computer screen. So I start with:
- The Wellness Reports Dietary Supplements, 2012, published by the University of California, Berkeley, School of Public Health
- The Mayo Clinic Book of Alternative Medicine
- The Truth About Vitamins and Minerals, a Harvard Medical School Special Health Report
- The Mayo Clinic's "drugs and supplements" link -- http://bit.ly/nZlpR
- Natural Medicines Comprehensive Database -- Consumer Version -- http://bit.ly/ScVgEX
- National Institute of Health's PubMed -- http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/
Boron is an element found in foods such as peanut butter, wine, grapes and other fruits, like peaches. While some reports have associated lower prostate cancer risk with higher boron intake, a large study involving over 35,000 men could not validate that finding. So, there is no official recommendation to take boron supplements to reduce prostate cancer risk.
Clinical trials in the U.S. involving diabetics have so far produced no clear evidence of benefit from chromium supplements. A Dutch study found no benefit from chromium in protecting against diabetes. (A Chinese study of chromium supplements did show results, but we downplay the finding here because the Chinese aren't fat like us (yet!), and chromium levels weren't evaluated at the start of the study.)
There are many conflicting studies. Some early small studies had lots of us with Parkinson's taking very high doses at very high prices, but a later large study found no benefit. While Mayo, Berkeley and others suggest "don't bother," I still take 200mg a day, since some studies report heart health and blood pressure benefits, and no dangerous side effects have been reported.
Berkeley: "There's no reason for most people to take creatine. It may give some competitive athletes a small edge, but this is meaningless for recreational athletes and exercisers." Those with kidney problems should avoid it.
Mayo: Many older studies showed promising results in relieving arthritis pain. But the results of a large NIH-sponsored trial were mostly negative. Only those with very severe arthritis appeared to benefit. But it has few side effects, and it might help. Berkeley: Forget about it "unless you are willing to pay $20 or more a month for what is probably a placebo."
Berkeley: "Eat foods rich in selenium, such as whole grains and nuts, but skip the supplements because of the inconsistent research results." If your diet provides the recommended daily allowance (RDA), additional selenium could be risky. If you do take a selenium supplement, take no more than 200mg a day. Mayo: Same. Selenium deficiency is rare, and mostly occurs with severe gastrointestinal problems. "Despite some earlier studies, recent research indicates that selenium does not significantly lower cancer or heart disease risk."
Bottom Line: Get Nutrition from Diet, Not Supplements
Most sources agree: we should obtain our vitamins and minerals from food, not supplements. But NIH cautions that we might need supplements in these situations: