With cold and flu season in full swing, ’tis the season for many Americans to throw back one or more dietary supplements in the hopes of fending off illnesses. And it isn’t just a winter habit; for many they’ve become routine, with nearly 58% of people ages 20 and older reporting using at least one dietary supplement.
But do all those little pills — which make up a multibillion-dollar industry — actually do anything?
Experts say that food trumps supplements as the best source of nutrients. Dr. Marilyn Tan, a clinical associate professor of medicine at Stanford University, explained the benefits of acquiring a nutrient gradually throughout the day rather than getting “a large chunk of it all at once” via pill.
“Most people with the standard American diet, unless they’re on very restrictive diets, get adequate nutrients through their diet,” she said. “Vitamin deficiency can happen with certain conditions like malabsorption or pernicious anemia, for example, but for the average, otherwise healthy American, they get plenty of nutrients through the diet.”
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