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Your Guide to Taking Vitamins

Science shows that vitamins are no longer a one-size-fits-all solution. Here's how to know which supplements you need—(and which you don't)—to save your health.
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Illustrations by Peter Ryan

Karon Warren has been popping a daily multivitamin for years. "I'm so busy that I don't eat like I should," says the 41-year-old working mom of two from Ellijay, Georgia. Although she's moving in a million directions, shuttling her kids between school, dance and tumbling lessons, she couldn't help but notice recent headlines. "Every time a new study comes out about vitamins, I become a little concerned," Karon admits. "But I've had no side effects and always get a clean bill of health from my doctor. I'm sticking with them."

Karon is not alone. More than half of American adults rely on at least one supplement to become—or stay—healthy. But recent research suggests the practice may not do a body good after all. In a study of nearly 40,000 women, a slightly reduced life expectancy was reported for those taking multivitamins, folic acid and iron.

So do you dump your supplements along with last week's leftovers? "Nobody should change their behavior based on a single study," says Jeffrey Blumberg, Ph.D., Family Circle Health Advisory Board member and professor of nutrition at Tufts University. "Their safety has been well established by 50-plus years of research." Instead, create a customized plan with your doctors before you stock your medicine cabinet. Take our expert advice to your next appointment to start the conversation about which supplements to swallow, which to swear off and which brands are best.

Before You Take That Pill...

Seventy-nine percent of physicians recommend vitamins to their patients for bone, joint, heart and overall health, according to a survey funded by the Council for Responsible Nutrition (CRN), a trade association. Get the scoop on some of the top ones for moms like you.

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