Food & Nutrition

15 Vitamins (and Supplements) Nutritionists Don’t Take—so You Shouldn’t Either

Whether the pills interact with medications or the health claims don’t hold up, these vitamins and other supplements are the ones experts say you’re better off without.

Biotin

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Looking for long, healthy hair and nails? Biotin pills may not be the miracle you were hoping for. “Some supplements don’t have much evidence that they work,” says Ginger Hultin, MS, CSO, a Seattle-based registered dietitian, nutritionist, and Arivale coach. “Take biotin, for example—unless there is an outright deficiency, it’s not proven to help. It’s generally a best practice to get the nutrients you need from food if you can.” Foods naturally rich in biotin include eggs, salmon, sunflower seeds, sweet potato, almonds, spinach, broccoli, and dairy like milk, cheese, and yogurt.

Iron

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Did you decide, on your own, to start taking iron supplements? That could be dangerous. “Iron is sometimes prescribed based on certain medical conditions, but use caution—it can have unpleasant side effects, including stomach upset and constipation,” says Hultin. Too much iron could even lead to a condition called hemochromatosis, which can cause an irregular heartbeat, cirrhosis of the liver, and even cancer. Hultin prefers to use an individualized approach based on lab data to help determine which supplements her patients actually need. “This is another one to take only if you need to, and in the doses recommended by your doctor,” she says. Instead she suggests ensuring that you eat enough fortified breakfast cereal, oysters, beans, dark chocolate, tofu, lentils, spinach, and meats like beef and chicken. Check out these 8 supplements doctors say women should stop wasting their money on.

Red yeast rice

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If you’re trying to lower your cholesterol, you may have turned to red yeast rice. “While there is some evidence for treating high cholesterol levels with red yeast rice, it has side effects that should be monitored carefully by a physician,” says Hultin. “And because this is a supplement that acts in many ways like a medication, it would be very unsafe to take it at the same time as a cholesterol-lowering medication.” According to the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health, some red yeast rice products contain a contaminant called citrinin, which can cause kidney failure. It’s also unsafe to use while pregnant or breastfeeding. Watch for these 13 supplement or medication combinations you should avoid.

Vitamin A

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Even though vitamin A is important for immune health and vision, most Americans are not deficient in it and should not be supplementing with it, says Arielle Levitan, MD, cofounder of Vous Vitamin, and coauthor of The Vitamin Solution: Two Doctors Clear the Confusion About Vitamins and Your Health. “It is readily available in many food sources, including fruits and vegetables, and many foods are fortified with it,” she says. “It is a fat-soluble vitamin, so even if you don’t take in too much, what you do consume stays in your fat cells for a long time.” In addition, research shows an association between taking supplemental vitamin A and higher rates of cancer and osteoporosis.

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