Which dietary supplements actually work and which should you take

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AT MY local supermarket, I find myself seduced by the range of possibilities in the supplements aisle. Sure, I might be somewhat poorer if I succumb, but who wouldn’t be tempted by a brain-boosting formulation including a range of nutrients that “help the maintenance of memory”, or the promise of “super immunity”?

There is everything here that my body could need and more, from vitamin C and multivitamins to formulations with echinacea or turmeric. Online, things get more outlandish, with supplements promising everything from enhanced libido and sports performance to “thermogenic fat burning”.

The sheer range of products on offer, and the claims that they are making, is overwhelming and confusing. On the one hand, we are blasted with messages about the nutritional inadequacies of the modern diet: surely adding concentrated doses of the good stuff extracted from food is helpful? Yet at the same time, large studies often suggest that many supplements have no discernible benefits.

“I’m concerned about this dizzying array of dietary supplements on the market, and that many people may be fooled into spending money on supplements that are not helpful to them and that could even be harmful,” says JoAnn Manson at Harvard University.

So here is a guide to help you navigate the complex and often paradoxical world of nutritional supplements. We examine the evidence behind the promises on the labels so you can make better decisions about which products really deserve your hard-earned cash.

Scientific agencies such as the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) define supplements as concentrated sources …


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