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Staying Healthy

Are you taking too many supplements?

June 1, 2021

It’s a strategy that may backfire and wind up defeating your intent to boost health.

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Exercising, eating right, managing stress, and sleeping well: they’re the mainstays of a healthy lifestyle. Taking lots of dietary supplements should not be added to the list; there’s little scientific evidence to support it. Yet many Americans make excessive supplement intake a key component of their health regimens.

In national health surveys conducted in 2017–2018, 25% of people age 60 or older reported using four or more supplements. That’s on the lower end of the spectrum for some people. "I see patients taking seven to 20 supplements a day. They are reluctant to give them up because they believe supplements are as effective as prescription medication," says Joanne Doyle Petrongolo, a pharmacist at Harvard-affiliated ­Massachusetts General Hospital.

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