Most Dietary Supplements Are Useless, But Here Are The Ones You Should Take

Flickr/Mike Mozart

So you want to feel healthier. It seems simple enough: Eat a balanced diet, get enough sleep and exercise, and maybe take a few supplements to speed the process along.

Or not.

Recent research has found that not only do these supplements most likely not help you slim down, bulk up, or be more energized — but they're also harmful.

A large study from the federal government linked supplements — sold under brand names like Hydroxycut and Xenadrine — with 20,000 ER visits each year. Last year, the Department of Justice filed criminal and civil enforcement actions against 117 makers of these products.

So here are the supplements you should take — and the ones you should avoid:

Flickr/John Jeddore

Protein powder: Skip it and eat beans, tofu, nuts, fish or meat instead

Marketed as necessary for weight gain and muscle building, protein is one of the best-selling supplements in the US. On the one hand, protein is good for you — it helps build muscles.

But most Americans get plenty of protein in their diets. In fact, most of us get too much. Meat, fish, beans, tofu, and nuts are rich in protein. Plus, numerous companies have been accused recently of spiking their protein powders with cheap fillers — another reason to avoid the powdered stuff.

kh1234567890/flickr

Homeopathic remedies: Skip them – they don't work

Homeopathic treatments are super-diluted doses of medications. Advocates of these treatments claim that they can do everything from relieve colds to calm anxious pets.

But homeopathy has repeatedly been shown to be ineffective. A 2005 study published in the medical journal The Lancet found that homeopathy — which involves diluting an active ingredient until there's no measurable quantity left — was roughly as effective as a placebo.

Flickr/Brazucany.TV

Workout boosters like Jack3d or Oxy Elite Pro: Skip them – they've been linked to illness and at least one death

For years, the makers of these supplements, whose active ingredient is dimethylamylamine, or DMAA, claimed that they increased speed, strength, and endurance.

But in 2011, after two soldiers who had used Jack3d died, the Department of Defense removed all products containing DMAA from stores on military bases. And a recent indictment against Dallas company USPlabs, which makes OxyElite Pro, accuses the company of falsely claiming that its product was made of natural plant extracts. In reality, it contains synthetic stimulants made in China. The indictment also claims that the use of OxyElite led to several liver injuries and at least one death.

Flickr/Michelle Dyer

Zinc: Take it – it's one of the only ingredients linked to shortening a cold

Zinc 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 took a placebo. The ones on the zinc had shorter colds and less severe symptoms.

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