What Vitamins Should I Take? Secrets Doctors Tell Their Friends

When physicians have heart-to-heart chats with their pals, their advice often differs from the medical standard.

What Vitamins Should I Take? Secrets Doctors Tell Their FriendsGregory Reid for Reader's Digest
Clifford Rosen, MD, knows vitamin D: He was part of an Institute of Medicine committee that recently set recommendations for the “sunshine vitamin.” So he’s astounded when he learns that friends are popping as much as 5,000 IU of the vitamin each day—far higher than the 4,000 IU established as the safe upper limit. “Probably 80 percent of the people I know take vitamin D,” says Dr. Rosen, who directs the Center for Clinical and Translational Research at the Maine Medical Center Research Institute in Scarborough, Maine. “When I ask them why, they say, ‘It’s not harmful.’ But that’s not necessarily true.”

In fact, the latest research in vitamin science suggests that many previously lauded supplements may be riskier than once thought. And dangers may be greater for those who are savviest about nutrition. “People who take supplements tend to eat better and have higher nutrient intakes than people who don’t,” says Paul R. Thomas, EdD, RD, scientific consultant at the National Institutes of Health’s Office of Dietary Supplements. “Adding supplements on top of a healthy diet increases the risk of getting more than you need.”

Yet it’s tough to judge the value of supplements when news headlines seesaw between recommendations and warnings. So we asked some of the nation’s top supplement experts a simple question: What advice do you give your friends and family about vitamins? Their answers may make you rethink what’s in your medicine cabinet.

Next: Is vitamin C worth it?

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