Weight loss supplements

Article Feb 6, 2013

Stop! Before you spend your hard-earned cash on the latest supplements, read our expert Q&As.

Pop into any pharmacy, healthfood shop or supermarket and you’ll see shelves heaving with pills and potions designed to boost your weight loss. If you took them all you’d not only be broke, you’d rattle! So which supplements should you choose and how to take them for maximum benefit? We put your questions to nutrition experts to find out the best way to use supplements.

Can I overdose on supplements?

‘Some people worry that if they take a single-dose nutrient alongside a multinutrient formula they’ll take too much,’ says nutritionist Rob Clark. ‘But it’s highly unlikely. For a start, most formulas adhere to the recommended daily amounts (RDAs) which are the minimum needed to prevent deficiency, rather than the safe upper limit. Unless they contain particularly high doses, it’s highly unlikely you’d exceed this even by combining supplements.

‘Water-soluble vitamins, such as B and C, can’t be stored in the body, so any excess you consume will simply be flushed out. Pregnant women should avoid supplements containing vitamin A (stick to a pregnancy-specific formula) and anyone with blood-clotting issues (such as those on Warfarin or about to go into hospital for an operation) should avoid vitamin E as it thins the blood.’

If in doubt, check the safe upper limit of a nutrient (go to hsis.org) and compare it to your product labels. If you experience any unwanted symptoms while taking supplements, get them checked out by 
your health practitioner.

I found a packet of supplements at the back of my cupboard but they’re past their sell-by date. Should I take them?

‘Liquid supplements are best thrown out as they may have a bacterial overgrowth,’ says Clark. ‘An out-of-date tablet or capsule is unlikely to do you damage but its potency may well have diminished, so you might not reap many benefits.’

What’s the best time of day to take my supplements?

‘Whenever you’re most likely to remember!’ says independent nutritionist Ian Marber (ianmarber.com). ‘I’ve never read any convincing evidence that nutrients are better used by the body at different times 
of day. And for some people, it’s hard enough to remember to take them in the first place, let alone taking one with breakfast, another with lunch and more in the evening.

‘That said,’ he continues, ‘it makes sense if you’re taking something stimulating – such as a sports supplement containing green tea, say – you shouldn’t take it before bed. Likewise, a relaxant such as rhodiola or valerian, is one for your bedside table.’

Bone resorption (when bones break down minerals into the blood stream) peaks at night, so, according to experts at the Royal Adelaide Hospital, Australia, taking calcium before bed and first thing in the morning can be beneficial for those women at risk of osteoperosis.