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What You Don’t Know About Vitamins: July 8, 2014

Working mom Cylina Slajda is like millions of Americans who spend billions of dollars on vitamins and supplements.

“I take a multi-vitamin, I take fish oil, and usually a B12 for energy - because I have a 4-year old I like to keep up with.”

Experts say in many cases, their money could be better spent. The estimated 40% of the population currently taking multi-vitamins may be getting little in return.

“Multi-vitamins are a shotgun approach. You’re just taking all of the vitamins, but you really don’t have a clue what you’re really supposed to be taking,” says Dr. Sal Lacagnina, vice president of health and wellness for Lee Memorial Health System.

And mega-doses of specific vitamins can be downright dangerous. While water-soluble ones like B and C will flush through the body, others stick around.

“When you’re looking at the fat-soluble vitamins, A, D, E, and K, over a long time period, if you’re taking in too much, it actually stays in your system. And can become toxic,” Dr. Lacagnina says.

When you say ‘supplements’ you’ve said a mouthful. They include not only vitamins, but minerals and antioxidants. The term refers to ‘adding’ or ‘supplementing’ them into your diet. Calcium is the most notable. And doctors find it might be better as a supplement.

“We’ve all been taught over the years that you have to have dairy products to get your calcium.  All you really need to do is take a calcium supplement. You don’t need to be getting calcium from milk or cheese or dairy products because what you’re getting in addition is all of the extra fat,” says Dr. Lacagnina.

Being educated and paying attention to your body may be your best guide.

“I notice a difference in my energy level and even my focus if I’m not taking them.” says Slajda.

Food for thought as you ponder how to spend your green.