8 Surprising Misconceptions About Supplements

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Since the days of those surprisingly delicious Flinstones vitamins you might have taken as a kid, you've probably thought of supplements as a great way to stay healthy. But the fact of the matter is, you probably have some surprising misconceptions about supplements — what they can actually do, whether they really work, and even which ones you should be taking. According to experts, there are a number of things that people often believe about supplements that just aren't true at all.

"There is a lot that goes into the right supplement routine," Dr. Maggie Luther, ND, medical director and formulator for Care/of, tells Bustle. "Supplements aren’t like a pair of shoes where you either like them or you don’t," she says. "You want to use supplements to aide in providing yourself relief from minor health issues, and to [help with] complaints such as stress, sleep and other health concerns."

When it comes to deciding what to take, it can be tempting to just hop on whatever is trending at the moment or take whatever your friends swear by. But this method doesn't take into consideration your specific lifestyle, health needs, and more. Instead, do extensive, quality research, Dr. Luther says. Also, be sure to discuss any supplements you're taking with your doctor, as they could interfere with any prescriptions you're on.

The more you know, the more empowered you are to make the right health decisions for you. Here are some common misconceptions about supplements, according to experts.

1. If They're Natural, They're Good For You

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"One of the biggest misconceptions that people have about the supplements is that they think they are all natural which means that they are not harmful," Dr. Inna Lukyanovsky, PharmD, a functional medicine practitioner and gut and hormones expert, tells Bustle. "The reality is that not all 'natural' claiming product are derived from well-tested 'clean' sources," she says. Do some research into the brands you're considering to see how extensively they've tested their products, so that you have a good idea of what you're buying.

2. Different Brands Of The Same Supplement Are The Same

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Any bottle of fish oil pills might seem the same to you, but that really isn't true. "Another big misconception is to think that there is no difference whether you but an expensive quality product or inexpensive same main ingredient product," Dr. Lukyanovsky says. When it comes to supplements, you really do get what you pay for. "The quality brands invest into clinical studies of their product including safety, efficacy, allergens, etc," she says. "More reputable brands label their products non-GMO and check each batch for cross contamination with the allergens."

3. Multivitamins Prevent Illness

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There's a reason the popular saying is "an apple a day keeps the doctor away" and not "a multivitamin a day keeps the doctor away."

"Many people believe they can promote general health and ward off serious conditions such as cardiovascular diseases and cancer," Morton Tavel, MD, author of Health Tips, Myths and Tricks: A Physician's Advice, tells Bustle. "But the facts don't support these contentions," he says. "Clinical trials repeatedly fail to show benefit of multivitamin supplements to healthy people." In fact, you could even run into the problem of getting too much of some vitamins, such as vitamin A and calcium, both of which can be risky for your health, Dr. Tavel says. Make sure you're keeping track of the amounts of micronutrients you're getting from your regular diet, so that you don't accidentally overload through supplements.

4. They're Totally Unnecessary

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While multivitamins may not prevent you from getting cancer, that doesn't mean that you don't need them, Brandi Cole, PharmD, medical advisory board member for Persona Nutrition, tells Bustle. While you can technically get all of the essential vitamins and minerals your body needs from food alone, that requires a great deal of planning and attention, which many people don't have the time or money for. "Yes, in an ideal world we would get all of the nutrients we need from food," she says, "but unfortunately, a significant number of people don’t [...] have access to high-quality, nutrient-rich foods." That's where supplements can come in handy, but be sure to talk to your doctor about which ones would be good for your needs.

5. It Is Always Best To Take Your Vitamins And Supplements In The Morning

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Taking a handful of supplements with your morning glass of lemon water might seem like the best way to start your day. But this really isn't the case, Dr. Cole says. "There are nutrients that should be taken at various times of the day to help optimize health," she says. For example, a nutrient that helps energize you isn't the kind of thing you'll want to take right before bed. Others might sit better on a full stomach, so you'll want to make sure you're having them with a solid meal.

6. A Multivitamin Will Cover All Of Your Bases

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Through the name alone, a multivitamin seems perfect since it sounds like it contains everything you need. But in actuality, no two people have the same needs, so there's really no reason to assume that whatever you find in the store will give you everything you need in the right ratios, Dr. Cole says. "Just like one [lifestyle] doesn’t fit all, one supplement regimen doesn’t either," she says. What you're supplementing with should be based on lifestyle, age, gender, health goals, stress levels, sleep patterns, dietary restrictions, medical conditions and the medications you are taking, so work closely with your doctor to determine what is best for you.

7. All Supplements Are FDA-Approved

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If you find a supplement on a shelf, it's tempting to think that it has gone through a rigorous approval process from the Food and Drug Administration. "This is incorrect," Dr. Robert Segal, co-founder of Lab Finder, tells Bustle. "The FDA's role is after the supplements are already available in the market." In fact, the only time that the manufacturur will report to the FDA is if consumers experience any side effects from the product. That's why doing your research into how the supplement was tested and made is so important.

8. Supplements Treat Symptoms The Way Drugs Do

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If you've just taken your first iron pill to give you more energy during the day, you probably expect to feel differently pretty soon, because that's the way that pharmaceuticals or over-the-counter drugs work. "Instead, supplements work to restore health and support biochemical pathways in the body. Their effect is often much more subtle," Dr. Luther says. While they can definitely help you reach your goals when you combine them with good nutrition and a balanced lifestyle, they won't magically make you feel better by themselves. "The right quality supplements are meant to be one piece of the health puzzle," she says.

Whether you currently have a whole lineup of supplements you take each day or only use one trusty bottle, just make sure that you know what you're taking and why. The more you understand about what you're putting in your body, the more you can be in control of your own health.