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Vitamin supplements worth your time and money

Wednesday - 2/19/2014, 6:07am  ET

Marissa Paiano, special to wtop.com

WASHINGTON -- You've probably been told to drink orange juice or take Emergen-C at the first sign of a common cold, since vitamin C has been thought to fight off sickness. However, more and more studies are proving this is not the case.

According to Smithsonian Magazine, the misperception doesn't end there. It turns out vitamin C isn't the only supplement that is not worth taking.

Studies have also shown that multivitamins do not lower the chance of cancer or cardiovascular disease.

The Annals of Internal Medicine recently published numerous studies supporting the idea that most vitamin and minerals are not beneficial.

In fact, certain vitamins (A, C, E and beta carotene) can actually increase the risk of cancer or other diseases when they are in a refined form because they increase the concentration of antioxidants in the body, according to Salon.

Although these vitamins are essential to survival, they can be found in most people's diets in developed countries and there is no advantage to taking additional supplements.

However there are a few exceptions.

Vitamin D: Both a 2008 and 2013 review of multiple studies found that taking vitamin D supplements causes adults to live longer.

Vitamin D has also been found to reduce the chance of children catching the flu and improve bone health in adults.

Probiotics: The use of probiotics can be beneficial depending on the circumstances.

Probiotics are essential in replacing the bacteria that are responsible for regulating your health after they are wiped out by an antibiotic.

A 2012 review of 82 controlled trials found that probiotics reduced the occurrence of diarrhea after using antibiotics.

Zinc: A 2011 review may have found a substitute for vitamin C when you feel a cold coming on.

The review looked at 13 studies in which patients with colds took either zinc supplements or

placebo pills. The patients who took the zinc had shorter colds and also less severe symptoms.

Niacin (vitamin B3): Prescription-strength doses of niacin have been said to be a cure for a variety of health issues such as high cholesterol, Alzheimer's, diabetes and even headaches, according to Salon.

Unfortunately, the same cannot be said for over-the-counter supplements of this vitamin. This strength has only been found to reduce the chance of death due to a cardiac event in people with heart disease if taken daily.

Garlic: While it isn't the first thing that comes to mind when you hear "vitamin," garlic has been found to be a suitable treatment for high blood pressure.

A 2008 review of 11 trials found that when consumed daily as a concentrated supplement, it can reduce blood pressure.

Overall, the next time you stock up on vitamins and minerals, make sure you're spending your money on supplements that work and ones that will actually cure what you need them to.

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