Try looking to food instead of a pill for that overall balanced nutrition, says Sara Blackburn D.Sc., R.D., clinical associate professor of the Nutrition and Dietetics Program at the Indiana University School of Health and Rehabilitation Sciences. Under the scrutiny of research, complementary medicines involving supplements are proving less effective than hoped. Blackburn said supplements are a reasonable option when a person has a nutrient deficiency or when a particular nutrient is limited in his or her diet. She said this deficiency may manifest itself in a medical problem, thus she encourages people to work with their family physician or a dietitian to determine the best course of treatment. A real gift to ourselves, said Blackburn, is daily "body wellness care," which involves putting care of yourself first.
"In a land of plenty, we don't think we have problems with malnutrition but we do," Blackburn said. "Folks limit themselves all the time, and as a result do not make wise food choices, thinking they will correct it later."
Blackburn offers the following suggestions:
* Look to food. The emphasis should be on foods, particularly fruits and vegetables. The goal for fruits and veggies, Blackburn said, is five servings a day, which is about 2.5 cups of each. A 10-ounce, bottle of orange juice, for example, is about 2.5 servings.
* Oldies but goodies. Sleeping eight hours per day, eating a nutritionally balanced diet and exercising regularly is the triad for good overall health promotion and disease prevention.
* Federal guidelines. The Dietary Guidelines for Americans 2005, which is the most recent set of guidelines from the Department of Health and Human Services and the USDA, supports the use of B12 for people older than 50; iron and folic acid for women of child bearing years and vitamin D for older folks, especially those with dark skin. The guidelines can be found at http://www.healthierus.gov/dietaryguidelines/.
* Too much of a good thing. Large doses of some supplements, such as vitamin A, can be toxic. Blackburn recommends that vitamin and/or mineral preparations have the minimal levels as recommended by the recommended daily allowance.
* Cost and quality. The cost of a vitamin or supplement does not indicate its quality. Information about potency is included on supplements' UPS label, which follows recognized processing standards.
* Expert help. This Web site, http://www.eatright.org/cps/rde/xchg/ada/hs.xsl/index.html, can help viewers find registered dietitians near them