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Do Vitamin Supplements Make Sense?

Vitamin C

While a few small studies have shown that C may shorten the length of a cold, the vast majority have found no effect of the vitamin on preventing or shortening colds. In addition, a recent large study of nearly 49,000 Swedish men found those who took about 1,000 milligrams of vitamin C supplements a day were about twice as likely as those who didn’t take supplements to develop kidney stones 11 years later. 

Calcium and Vitamin D

Milk, whether it’s cow’s milk or fortified soy or almond milk, is one of the best sources of calcium in the diet, and Americans don’t drink enough of it, according to the USDA. As a result, calcium and vitamin D were listed as a “shortfall nutrients” in the latest dietary guidelines.

Many adults turn to calcium and vitamin D supplements to bridge the gap. But evidence suggests supplements may not be as effective.  

According to the new recommendation from the USPSTF, supplements of up to 1,000 milligrams of calcium and 400 IU of vitamin D don’t prevent fractures in postmenopausal women with healthy bones.

The new recommendations don’t apply to the estimated 30% of postmenopausal women who have osteoporosis. And they don’t apply to women who have low vitamin D levels or those who are at high risk for falls. The panel also said there wasn’t enough evidence to say whether supplements might help men or younger women.

At the same time, new studies have questioned the safety of calcium supplements. Early research suggests that people who take calcium supplements have a higher risk for heart disease than those who do not take the supplements.

Until more is known, food is probably the best way to meet your daily calcium needs, which range from 1,000 to 1,200 milligrams for adults.

Aim for three dairy servings a day, from milk, yogurt, or low-fat cheese. Or look for fortified foods like cereals and juices.

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