Should We Be Taking Supplements for Winter in North Carolina?

Should We Be Taking Supplements for Winter in North Carolina?

Do you need supplements? It depends. If you are pregnant, or a vegetarian, it is a definite yes. For you, supplements are a must. But as for the rest of us (the “general” population with no specific medical conditions), should we be taking supplements for winter? That’s a big maybe.

In fact, as many as three out of four Americans report taking some kind of daily supplement — vitamins, minerals, herbals, and even spices. Supplements have become a $40 billion-dollar industry. That’s serious money. But what are we getting for all those dollars? New studies suggest that the rewards aren’t as much as you’d think.  

What You Should Know About Supplements for Winter 

We know that an array of vitamins and minerals are important to maintaining our health and immune system. And we know that a well-balanced diet should give us everything we need to do that. In the U.S., most of us already get adequate amounts of these nutrients, even when our diets aren’t perfect.

Healthy diets include fresh veggies.
Image courtesy of Shutterbug75 from Pixabay.

But nearly every day, we see social media influencers, talk shows, magazine articles, and even news stories that tout some new additional supplement. And so, we worry our diet isn’t giving us enough. Many of us take supplements — just in case. And right now, as we roll into winter and watch the COVID-19 numbers tick up, we are looking for anything that might help. Many of us are doubling down on the tactics we think might strengthen our immune system.

But what does the science say? Some research actually shows that for the general population, dietary supplements don’t make us healthier overall. In fact, the studies suggest that:

  • Vitamin C still has not been proven to prevent or cure the common cold.
  • Sadly, despite all the press, we don’t know yet whether vitamin D supplements can help reduce the severity of COVID-19. Studies on this one are in progress, so stay tuned.
  • Finally, there are no supplements that can prevent or treat our most complex and devastating medical problems — things like diabetes, memory loss, dementia, Alzheimer’s, or cancer.

Surprised? Not all supplement sellers are upfront about this. Why not? Their claims aren’t fully regulated by the FDA. The FTC has guidelines on commercial speech, but not necessarily on the supplements themselves. There are some restrictions on what supplement sellers can say, but your protections as a consumer have some holes.

How can you learn which supplements are best for you?

Talk with your doctor, nutritionist and pharmacist about maybe taking supplements in winter. These professionals are always going to be your best resources, because they’re trained to consider all those “it depends” factors and make recommendations based on your specific features — your age, weight, genetics, medical issues, and medications.

So, if you take supplements this winter just in case, be sure to do your homework. It’s important. And be certain you’re looking at recent reports on those supplements’ usefulness. You’ll want the most recent information and efficacy updates. Research the ingredients, dosages, claims, and potential negative effects for yourself. Here are three reputable sites where you can start your search:

supplements for winter diet
Fruits are a must.
Image courtesy of Trang Doan from Pexels.
  • BMJ — A study on the health effects of vitamins and minerals.
  • Nutraingredients — An industry caution against inappropriate use of supplements.
  • National Institute of Health — an easy-to-read summary of dietary supplements and research.

Until then, the basics your mom told you are still important. Eat healthy foods (including lots of fruit and veggies), dress warm, wash your hands, and get plenty of rest. And yes, please wear a mask.

You can also check out more on health and healthy diets if you want to learn more!