Are vitamins and supplements worth taking?

(WAFB) –

Vitamins have been an important part of Carolyn Day’s health routine for a long time, but it wasn’t until she talked with her doctor that she figured out the vitamin D supplement she was taking wasn’t helping.

"My knees hurt really badly, and I could hardly walk,” said Day. "She sent me to a lab to do blood test and I came back extremely low on vitamin D."

It turns out the supplement she was taking wasn’t effective, but her doctor helped her find one that worked for her.

"My biggest advice is to figure out what that patient in particular needs, what would be beneficial, and what would not be beneficial," said Dr. Kate Freeman.

As a family medicine specialist with Ochsner Medical Center, Dr. Freeman knows the market is full of vitamins and supplements. It’s a multi-billion dollar industry that grows every year. While Freeman says some supplements can be helpful, she worries too many people fall for outrageous claims not backed by science. She points out that senior citizens can be especially vulnerable to marketing and extra supplements could be both a financial and health burden.

Freeman says one of the first conversations she has with patients is reviewing what supplements they may take, why they’re taking them, and the science behind any claims. From there, Freeman says she can help tailor supplements to a patient’s need. Freeman also points out nothing can replace a healthy diet and exercise. When talking with patients, she also talks about finding the nutrition they need in foods instead of vitamins.

“We can add a potassium supplement or I can give you a list of foods that have potassium and you can look at that as medicine, say, ‘I’m going to eat a banana a day or an avocado a day or a sweet potato,’" said Freeman.

It’s a conversation she had with Day. In addition to recommending a better vitamin D supplement, Freeman helped Day plan a diet designed to reduce inflammation. Now, her vitamin D levels are where they need to be, and Day says her aching joints feel much better.

"Made a big difference for me, definitely," said Day.

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