What Vitamins Should I Take?
Are the little packs of vitamins at the checkout all you need?
WebMD News Archive
May 22, 2000 -- I often see little packs of vitamins labeled 'especially for
men' at check-out counters and I wonder, are they a good idea or just marketing
hype? I'd say they're mostly hype. The mini-pack approach to
vitamins and herbs usually offers convenience rather than substance or value.
And placing them by the check-out counter suggests they're being marketed as an
impulse buy -- the same strategy used to sell candy bars or magazines. The time
to make decisions about supplements is not while waiting on line or chatting
with the cashier.
Your choice of supplement products should be based on an examination of your
personal health needs and which products are right for you, rather than an
impulse purchase. Of course, that takes a little more time and study.
Paying a little extra for convenience may not be worth it. Here's a rundown
on the drawbacks:
- You may not be getting much of anything. The small vitamin packs often have
minimal levels of the same nutrients that are much more plentiful in
conventionally packaged products.
- The one-shot fix may sound like a good thing, but it doesn't give you the
benefit of steady nutrient levels throughout the day. If you're serious about
supplements, it's best to spread them out over three meals, or at least take
them twice a day.
- "Energy" supplements are usually stimulants that can be potentially
harmful. For example, ephedra (the plant source of ephedrine) is often touted
as an energy-boosting herb. It can cause liver and kidney damage and high blood
pressure, among other complications. Panax ginseng, also promoted as an energy
booster, can cause side effects such as anxiety and insomnia with long-term
- Many of the supplement packets labeled "for men" may be unnecessary
for you or misleadingly hyped. Many packets contain a little extra zinc, or
perhaps the herbs saw palmetto or Pygeum africanum. These can support
prostate function and sexual health in middle-aged and older men who are
vulnerable to certain problems, but only if taken consistently on a long-term
basis. They are not particularly beneficial to younger men, and are certainly
not one-time performance enhancers for men of any age.