It seems like simple, obvious advice: Eat your vegetables, get some exercise, and — of course — take your vitamins. Or not. Decades of research has failed to find any substantial evidence that vitamins and supplements do any significant good. In fact, recent studies skew in the opposite direction, having found that certain vitamins may be bad for you. Several have been linked with an increase in certain cancers, for example, while others have been tied to a rise in the risk of kidney stones. And a large new study out Wednesday suggests that despite this growing knowledge, Americans' pill-popping habits have stayed basically the same over the last decade. So here are the vitamins and supplements you should take — and the ones you should avoid: Multivitamins: Skip them — you get everything you need with a balanced diet. For decades, it was assumed that multivitamins were critical to overall health. Vitamin C to "boost your immune system," Vitamin A to protect your vision, Vitamin B to keep you energized. Not only do you already get these ingredients from the food you eat, but studies suggest that consuming them in excess can actually cause harm. A large 2011 study of close to 39,000 older women over 25 years found that women who took them in the long term actually had a higher overall risk of death than those who did not. Vitamin D: Take it — It helps keep your bones strong and it's hard to get from food. Vitamin D isn't present in most of the foods we eat, but it's a critical ingredient that keeps our bones strong by helping us absorb calcium. Getting sunlight helps our bodies produce it as well, but it can be tough to get enough in the winter. Several recent study reviews have found that people who took Vitamin D supplements daily lived longer, on average, than those who didn't. Antioxidants: Skip them — an excess of these has been linked to an increased risk of certain cancers, and you can eat berries instead. Vitamins A, C, and E are antioxidants found in plentiful form in many fruits — especially berries — and veggies, and they've been touted for their alleged ability to protect against cancer. But studies suggest that when taken in excess, antioxidants can actually be harmful. A large, long-term study of male smokers found that those who regularly took Vitamin A were more likely to get lung cancer than those who didn't. And a 2007 review of trials of several different types of antioxidant supplements put it this way: "Treatment with beta carotene, vitamin A, and vitamin E may increase mortality. Vitamin C: Skip it — it probably won't help you get over your cold, and you can eat citrus fruits instead. The Vitamin C hype — which started with a suggestion from chemist Linus Pauling made in the 1970s and has peaked with Airborne and Emergen-C — is just that: hype. Study after study has shown that Vitamin C does little to nothing to prevent the common cold. Plus, megadoses of 2,000 milligrams or more can raise your risk of painful kidney stones. So get your Vitamin C from your food instead. Strawberries are packed with the nutrient. Vitamin B3: Skip it and eat salmon, tuna, or beets instead. For years, Vitamin B3 was promoted to treat everything from Alzheimer's to heart disease. But recent studies have called for an end to the over-prescription of the nutrient. A large 2014 study of more than 25,000 people with heart disease found that putting people on long-acting doses of Vitamin B3 to raise their levels of "good," or HDL, cholesterol didn't reduce the incidence of heart attacks, strokes, or deaths. Plus, people in the study who took the B3 supplements were more likely than those taking a placebo to develop infections, liver problems, and internal bleeding. Probiotics: Skip them — the science isn't advanced enough yet for them to have a significant benefit, and you can eat yogurt instead. Probiotics — pricey bacterial supplements that can cost upward of $1 per pill but are found naturally in smaller amounts in yogurt and other fermented foods — have become a big business with a market of roughly $23.1 billion in 2012. The idea behind them is simple: Support the trillions of bacteria blossoming in our gut which we know play a crucial role in regulating our health. But putting that idea into actual practice has been a bit more complicated. So far, the effects of probiotics have been all over the map. Sometimes they help, sometimes they don't. So rather than shelling out for a pill that promises to be a cure-all, snack on a parfait. Zinc: Take it — it's one of the only ingredients linked to shortening a cold. Unlike Vitamin C, which studies have found likely does nothing to prevent or treat the common cold, zinc may actually be worth it. The mineral seems to interfere with the replication of rhinoviruses, the bugs that cause the common cold. In a 2011 review of studies of people who'd recently gotten sick, researchers looked at those who'd started taking zinc and compared them with those who just took a placebo. The ones on the zinc had shorter colds and less severe symptoms. Vitamin E: Skip it — an excess has been linked to an increased risk of certain cancers, and you can eat spinach instead. The antioxidant Vitamin E was popularized for its alleged ability to protect against cancer. But a large 2011 study of close to 36,000 men found that the risk of prostate cancer actually increased among the men taking Vitamin E compared to the men taking a placebo. And a 2005 study linked high doses of Vitamin E with an overall higher risk of death. So if you're looking for more Vitamin E, make yourself a fresh spinach salad and skip the pill. Dark greens like spinach are rich with this stuff. Folic acid: Take it if you're pregnant or if you might want to get pregnant. Folic acid is a B vitamin which our bodies use to make new cells. The National Institutes of Health recommends that women who are currently pregnant or who want to get pregnant take 400 micrograms of folic acid daily because their bodies demand more of this key nutrient when they are carrying a growing fetus. Additionally, several large studies have linked folic acid supplementation before and during pregnancy with decreased rates of neural-tube defects, serious and life-threatening birth defects of the baby's brain, spine, or spinal cord. By Erin Brodwin via MSN Health
MYTH: SKIM MILK IS THE HEALTHIEST OPTION Is skim milk the healthiest choice? Will dairy make you congested? This might just change your mind. Truth: The health benefits of fat-free dairy may be overstated. Recent research has found that people who eat full-fat dairy aren’t any likelier to develop heart disease or diabetes than people who eat low-fat dairy. Other data has linked full-fat dairy to lower odds of obesity. The reason: Certain fatty acids in dairy may be linked to fullness; when you eat fat-free versions of milk, yogurt, and cheese, you may feel less satisfied (and eat more later). Low-fat milk helps your body absorb key nutrients from milk, such as vitamins A and D, as well as important fatty acids, says Katherine Tucker, PhD, nutritional epidemiology professor at the University of Massachusetts Lowell. MYTH: MILK CAUSES CONGESTION Truth: Dairy won’t make your cold any worse. Any uptick in congestion you feel after drinking dairy is probably in your head. Milk drinkers with the common cold didn’t experience more coughing or runnier noses than those who didn’t drink dairy, according to a Swiss report. The only people who reported increased respiratory problems after drinking milk were those who believed dairy produces more mucus, the report found. Try these home remedies to relieve a stuffy nose. MYTH: MORE MILK MEANS STRONGER BONES Truth: Study results are mixed when it comes to the skeleton-strengthening benefits of calcium. A BMJ study published in 2015 found that middle-aged adults who took calcium supplements or who got high levels of calcium from their diet were as likely to experience fractures as people who consumed less calcium. 'Dietary calcium intake is not associated with risk of fracture, and there is no clinical trial evidence that increasing calcium intake from dietary sources prevents fractures,' the study authors concluded. 'Evidence that calcium supplements prevent fractures is weak and inconsistent.' More research is needed to determine the best ways for adults to maintain strong bone health—and prevent fractures—into old age. Weight-bearing exercise (walking, running, dancing), as well as exercise that emphasizes balance (yoga, tai chi), appears to be critical. MYTH: MOST PEOPLE CAN’T DIGEST LACTOSE WELL Truth: The body can adapt to tolerate more milk. Even people who have a hard time digesting lactose rarely show symptoms with a small serving, especially when the dairy is paired with a meal, says Dennis Savaino, PhD, a nutrition science professor at Purdue University who has been studying lactose digestion for more than 30 years. 'Every poison—or food—has a dose,' Savaiano says. 'With lactose or milk, there’s a dose that gives symptoms, and that’s usually more than a cup.' Drinking milk regularly can make your body more used to digesting lactose, even if you’ve shown signs of intolerance before, he says. If you’re a dairy lover with lactose intolerance, talk to your doctor about ways to safely dabble in dairy without causing stomach upset or other symptoms. MYTH: MILK IS THE BEST BEVERAGE SOURCE OF CALCIUM Truth: Other drinks have comparable amounts. With 30 percent of your daily value of calcium in one cup, milk is by no means a shabby source of the mineral. But it’s not your only option for calcium, which helps bones, muscles, the heart and nerves. A cup of calcium-enriched orange juice has 35 percent of your daily need, and enriched soy milk can serve a whopping 45 percent. Check out these other calcium-rich foods. MYTH: ALL DAIRY PRODUCTS HAVE THE SAME VITAMINS AND MINERALS Truth: Milk and yogurt are more nutrient-rich than cheese and cream, Tucker says. Cheese is a middle ground between cream and milk; it has more nutrients than cream, but is not fortified with vitamin D the way milk often is. 'Cheese is still a good source of calcium and a reasonable source of protein,' she says, 'but there’s not as much vitamin D or magnesium because it’s diluted by fat.' By Marissa Laliberte via MSN.com
Weight gain is always a hot topic. Fad diets and exercises dominate the internet as people work to combat their increasing weight. Here we’ll review 5 reasons why you continue to gain weight and what you can do about it to achieve a healthier you.