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The Truth Behind the Top 10 Dietary Supplements

What you need to know about the most popular dietary and nutritional supplements on the market.
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Calcium continued...

The U.S. Dietary Guidelines recommends three servings of low-fat or non-fat dairy each day to help bridge this gap. But there are plenty of people who shun dairy, the best source of calcium in our diets.

"Many people misinterpret a sensitivity to lactose and think they are lactose-intolerant," says Grotto.

If you have not been diagnosed as lactose-intolerant, give dairy another chance. Start slowly, with a small amount with meals, or try dairy products that are lower in lactose, such as aged cheeses and yogurt.

If you do choose a calcium supplement, look for calcium citrate or lactate. These forms are best absorbed by the body, says Grotto.

B vitamins

B vitamins include thiamin, niacin, riboflavin, pantothenic acid, vitamin B-6, and vitamin B-12.

Many of us don't need these supplements, experts say.

"Romance surrounds the B vitamins because people misuse them to reduce stress and think a supplement will make them a nice person in traffic," says Grotto. "But there is not much research to support this theory. And besides, our diets are plentiful in B vitamins."

One exception, he says, is seniors, who may need additional B-12 because as we get older, we absorb less of it. Most of us should skip the supplements and get our Bs from grains, dark green vegetables, orange juice, and enriched foods. People with certain medical conditions or who take drugs that interfere with vitamin absorption may also require supplementation.

Vitamin C

Vitamin C is often taken in an effort to ward off colds, though there's little proof this works.

"There is scant evidence it may decrease the intensity or duration of colds, but it won't do any harm up to about 1,000 milligrams a day," Grotto says. Because it is a water-soluble vitamin, excess amounts are excreted.

Your health-care provider may tell you to take vitamin C if you have a wound that's healing. But wound otherwise, go for food sources.  Rich sources include oranges, peppers, grapefruits, peaches, papayas, pineapples, broccoli, strawberries, tomatoes, and melons.

Glucosamine and Chondroitin

These supplements are often taken by people with joint pain.

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