Supplements: Trendy, But Maybe Not Safe

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Matcha, mushrooms, chlorophyll, and hojicha are just some of the trendy supplements making dietary headlines these days.

  • Hojicha is advertised as able to speed metabolism, relieve stress, and promote blood circulation.
  • Chlorophyll is touted as anti-aging, odor-reducing, and a way to treat anemia.
  • Non-edible mushroom supplements allege to restore resilience, revitalization, and equilibrium.
  • Matcha claims include everything from enhancing your mood and lowering cholesterol to even preventing cancer.

Really?

The promises can be hard to believe. So we turned to dietitian Meredith Jones, RD, LD, for her view.

Unlike prescription drugs, manufacturers of supplements don’t have to conduct research to prove they are beneficial, Jones warns. “That means there could be a risk to taking them that we don’t know about. Just because a supplement is sold at your neighborhood drugstore doesn’t mean it’s safe.”

Weight loss supplements are especially worrisome, Jones adds. The fancy package may promise to boost energy, add muscle, and burn fat. Yet in reality, some have been shown to increase blood pressure and heart rate. Just last week the FDA warned that weight loss product Genesis Ultra Slim Gold may “interact, in life-threatening ways, with other medications,” and also “may increase your risk of cancer.”

Because supplements aren’t FDA-regulated, we don’t always know what’s in them, warns Jones. While the FDA posts frequent warnings about unsafe supplements, Jones says it’s up to the consumer to do the research to ensure the product will really do what the label says.

Who Can You Trust?

“Don’t rely on the recommendation of a friend; don’t take something because Dr. Oz or someone else on TV talked about it,” says Jones. Instead, your doctor should be your go-to resource. If you research online, make sure you’re looking at reliable websites, such as those of well-known medical institutions. “In addition, your pharmacist will know if a supplement may pose a dangerous interaction with prescription medications you’re taking,” Jones adds.

If you’re unable to get the nutrients you need from your diet, ask your doctor to recommend a reliable supplement. And for advice on foods you should eat to achieve your health goals, ask for a referral to a registered dietitian. “If possible, I’d rather see you get everything you need by eating whole foods, fruits, and vegetables instead of taking pills,” says Jones. who has counseled patients for 11 years.

It's easy to get the care you need.

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Meredith Jones, RDN, LD

Meredith Jones, RDN, LD