Do You Need This Supplement?

The lowdown on vitamin D, resveratrol and ginkgo biloba

by Shari Miller Sims
Photograph: Photo: iStockphoto

PROBABLY: Vitamin D
This nutrient assists in keeping bones strong, lowering blood pressure, maintaining the immune system, reducing inflammation and possibly aiding women in weight control and helping everyone avoid colon cancer. While the National Institute of Medicine says an “adequate intake” for a woman in her forties is 200 international units (IU) a day, “there’s a growing consensus that 800 IU may become the new goal,” says American Dietetic Association spokeswoman Christine Gerbstadt, MD. “It’s hard to get enough of D via food,” Jeannie Gazzaniga-Moloo, PhD, notes. But supplements of up to 800 IU daily are definitely safe.

MAYBE: Resveratrol
A toxin stored in the skins of red grapes that fends off attacks by outside organisms, resveratrol has become a wildly popular supplement in the U.S. But so far the phytochemical has proved a better antiager for lower life forms than for humans. Although lab studies showed that it inhibits the growth of cancer cells and extends the life of yeast, worms and mice, resveratrol on its own is not known to provide either of these results in people. “Most nutrients work better when gotten from foods, and that may be true here,” Gerbstadt says. “Have red grapes, raisins, grape juice or three ounces of red wine every few days, and you’ll get all the resveratrol you need.”

PROBABLY NOT: Ginkgo Biloba
This purported memory and cognitive aid may improve circulation by making blood less sticky (platelets become less aggregated). While previous studies suggested ginkgo might boost the memory of healthy adults, more recently the supplement did little to slow mental decline in a six-year study of 3,000 people age 70 and over, according to the Journal of the American Medical Association. Plus, there’s some concern that taking ginkgo may increase bleeding, which is why users are cautioned to discontinue use well before undergoing dental or surgical procedures.

Originally published in the May 2010 issue of More.

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