By Dr Astrid Boeckelmann, naturopathic physician

Up to half of the adult population in the United States takes supplements on a daily basis; and the Americans are not alone, similar figures are reported in other countries. So, just what is the appeal? How cost- and, more importantly, health-effective are over-the-counter supplement preparations? Can they really do all that they promise? Are we actually doing ourselves more harm than good?

The appeal of supplements

Everywhere we turn these days, it seems that we are bombarded with advertisements telling us to take this vitamin, or that supplement; promising everything from stronger bones, to healthier hair. Even before we are conceived our mothers are encouraged to take supplements, and this subliminal marketing continues throughout childhood, adolescence, the menopause. In fact, at every life stage you can think of there is a recommended supplement, guaranteed to make a difference for the better.

But will it?

Firstly, let’s consider the reasons for taking a regular supplement. Is it to make up for a deficiency in a particular vitamin or mineral; or is it more of an insurance policy – a just-in-case, let’s-cover-all-bases approach? With the former, there is a sound medical basis for taking supplements and the resulting impact will likely be positive. With the latter, there is a real need to explore the possible impact on your health, not to mention your wallet, and consider whether an over-the-counter concoction is really the best approach. Read more