Just because dietary supplements are safe in moderation doesn't mean that more is better. Combining several supplements or taking doses higher than recommended may increase the risk of harm, according to experts. Products sold as dietary supplements come with a supplemental information label that lists the active ingredients, the amount per serving (dose), and other ingredients, such as fillers, binders and flavorings. The manufacturer suggests the serving size, but your healthcare provider may decide that a different amount is more appropriate for you.
It's important to be aware that even if none of the supplements separately exceeds the maximum limit for a given nutrient, combining several pills, such as a multivitamin and an additional vitamin D capsule, for example, can result in higher doses than recommended. However, in moderation, some supplements may be recommended if those vitamins or minerals are lacking in your diet. Keep in mind that, under certain circumstances, your healthcare provider may recommend that you take more than recommended for certain nutrients to correct a deficiency.
Experts suggest calcium and vitamin D supplementsto some patients at risk of osteoporosis, but they always analyze their diet first before prescribing them.
And if you need to take a supplement, it's best to take multivitamins at the recommended dietary level, rather than single-nutrient supplements or high-dose multivitamins. While taking a general “broad-spectrum” vitamin and mineral supplement “just in case” poses little health risk and may benefit a person whose diet is restricted and lacks variety, taking vitamin and mineral supplements instead of following a nutritious diet is not recommended.
Women who are pregnant or planning to become pregnant are recommended folic acid (also known as folate) supplementsto reduce the risk of having a child with a neural tube defect, such as spina bifida. It's important to be careful when giving supplements to a child, unless recommended by your healthcare provider.
While most supplement bottles offer recommendations on how much vitamin to take per day, needs may vary from person to person. Some studies show no evidence that many popular supplements have real health benefits, leading many scientists to change some of their recommendations. It's important to consult with your healthcare provider before taking any dietary supplement and follow their advice.