Why dietary supplements are suspect – Harvard Health

Herbal remedies and other dietary supplements aren’t held to the same standards as FDA-approved drugs. Evidence indicates that few are effective, and…

Read the full article at: www.health.harvard.edu

Dietary supplements are a $37-billion industry.  A health benefit of a dietary component doesn’t always translate into its benefit as a supplement.  A good example is omega-3 fatty acids, found in salmon.


Studies show that the omega-3s docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) and eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) help boost brain and heart health, respectively. “Omega-3s help with blood vessel compliance and have a nice blood-thinning effect,” which can reduce the risk of heart attacks and strokes, says Shawn Talbott, fellow at the American College of Sports Medicine, and author of The Secret Of Vigor.


A 2012 paper published in Epidemiologic Review found that women who ate more salmon lowered their risk of heart disease, and DHA protects neurons in the brain from damage and inflammation. A 2015 meta-review in Neuroscience and Biobehavioral Review found that an increase in fish consumption could reduce the risk of Alzheimer’s by more than 30 percent.


Eating more salmon can prevent heart disease and dementia, but there is no evidence that fish oil capsules have the same effect.  So save your money on the capsules and spend it on salmon and enjoy.


Melatonin is a supplement that actually works.  It’s a synthetic form of the naturally occurring hormone that starts making you sleepy as the sun goes down.  Because the blue light emitted by computer and smartphone screens suppresses melatonin production, this may be the best natural remedy for our smartphone-addicted culture.  There are a few cheaper options, like developing a “power down” ritual two hours before bedtime (try reading a book – remember books?), or an app called f.lux, which adapts the spectrum of light on your device to the time of day or night, allowing natural melatonin to kick in.


Chamomile is an herb that can relieve anxiety and help you sleep, and there is some scientific evidence that it works.  It has also been used to treat a wide variety of conditions including hay fever, inflammation, muscle spasms, menstrual disorders, insomnia, ulcers, wounds, gastrointestinal disorders, rheumatic pain, and hemorrhoids.  We consume more than 1 million cups of chamomile tea every day.




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