Supplement takers not discouraged by reports of ineffectiveness

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SARASOTA, Fla. -- According to new data released by the National Center for Health Statistics - part of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention - nearly one in five Americans used a non-vitamin, non-mineral dietary supplement in 2012, even though there is a lack of evidence these products may be beneficial.

A national survey of more than 34,000 adults finds that of some of the most popular herbal and other non-vitamin or mineral supplements undertaken during the past ten years have often been disappointing, but American enthusiasm for them has not waned much.

Here on the Suncoast, opinions are divided.

Some people take them for health, for energy and for weight loss. But now new data finds we may be throwing our money away.

“Most supplements probably are not useful.” Family practitioner Dr. Robert Ford says when taken incorrectly, they can even be downright dangerous. “I’ve had some patients I’ve had to wean them off of their supplements because they've actually gotten symptoms from being toxic.”

He does however use some in his practice, but only those proven effective. “We use a lot of the omega 3 supplements, especially useful for triglycerides and elevation of HDL.”

But now non-vitamin, non-mineral supplements are being touted as ineffective.

“Well, I disagree. After 37 years in business, I look at myself compared to other people who've never taken supplements, and there's a big difference.” Doris Shields of Super Value Nutrition says St. Johns Wort, amino acids, curamin for inflammation, glucosimine with chondroitin, and probiotics work. “I believe they give us a lot of energy, help us with stress…they're good for the immune system.”

Many on the Suncoast seeking a natural remedy look to supplements.

“When I get a cold, one of the things I take is echinacea, because I believe it helps.” Phil Lieberman has taken echinacea for years; this is why: “Well, I've been told by natural health practitioners that it helps.”

But wait, there's more. Some supplements work, and some don't, says registered dietician Rebecca Henson of Doctor’s Hospital of Sarasota. “The first and foremost thing that I look for is to make sure that a supplement isn't dangerous.”

Once that’s been determined, a health professional can guide you. “There are supplements, for example pro-biotics that are not vitamins and minerals, that have been shown to do wonderful things for our gastrointestinal tract and our immune system.”