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Dr. Diane Calello, director of New Jersey poison control at Rutgers University, is very concerned about supplements peddled here in New Jersey — and so should you be.

We’ve all known for many years that some supplements are not what they are cracked up to be, and many of us have fallen victim to taking supplements that have questionable ingredients. You really have to be cautious, Dr. Calello says, when you’re just grabbing a supplement off-the-shelf of a pharmacy or a supermarket.

The mark up on supplements is sometimes three to four times higher than it is for regular food items, so it’s very common for retail stores to just load up on supplements without even knowing for sure if they are what they say they are, or do what they say they’ll do. Just to be on the safe side, I've compiled a list of what experts say are the four supplements that are probably good for everyone:

  • probiotics
  • vitamin D
  • magnesium
  • protein supplements (if you don’t get enough from foods)

(Fish oil used to be on this list but recent testing shows that it’s not what it was once thought it was.)

On the other hand, these supplements are unnecessary and can possibly even be harmful:

  • Green tea extract powder can cause reduced absorption of iron
  • Yohimbe can cause elevated blood pressure and heart rateg
  • Grapefruit seed extract, used for its supposed antibacterial properties, actually has other chemicals in it that it turns out are what kill the bacteria instead
  • Tied for fourth in the Questionable Supplement Category are fish oil and ginkgo biloba. Fish oil, while not harmful, is not what it was once thought to be. The Omega 3 benefits are probably only going to be realized through actually eating fish. and ginkgo biloba, while once thought to have a positive affect on alertness and memory and possibly even to stave off Alzheimer’s, through recent testing has been shown to have no effect on dementia whatsoever and, in fact, can actually cause high blood pressure.

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