Dr. Reed Q & A – Supplements

Health & Well Being

Reed V. Tuckson, MD, is Executive Vice President and Chief of Medical Affairs at UnitedHealth Group. A Fellow of the American College of Physicians, Dr. Reed is a nationally recognized speaker on preventive health and clinical medicine.


Q:   Dear Dr. Reed:

I am 66, play competitive tennis and just started an exercise program. Can supplements help me in achieving my fitness goals?

A:   Congratulations on taking charge of your health and asking such a timely question!

There are thousands of supplements available. Some can be of benefit to certain people, but many are not. Although, the health and fitness claims of these products can sound impressive, there is very little government regulation of the supplement industry and no labeling requirements. As a result, manufacturers can make claims for their products without having to prove they are effective or safe. Supplements can also be costly and some may even interact with prescription medicine. Some supplements may even contain drugs which are normally sold by prescription, which could have adverse health consequences.

If you are considering taking a supplement, you need to be well informed so that you will pick those that are appropriate for you and avoid the ones that are not helpful, or even harmful. 

Be sure you get your information from reliable sources- not your friends at the gym!

For example, you can talk to your doctor or registered dietician before taking any supplement, especially if you are on medications.  You may also want to let your family know that the American Academy of Pediatrics discourages the use of supplements by children and teens.

You can also go online at http://ods.od.nih.gov/HealthInformation and http://www.cdc.gov/nutrition to find out more useful information about supplements.


Do you have questions about your health? There is so much information out there that it can be hard to make sense of it all and, more importantly, apply it in our own lives. Dr. Reed Tuckson, Executive Vice President and Chief of Medical Affairs at UnitedHealth Group, hears this all the time as he travels the country speaking about preventive healthcare and clinical medicine and talking to readers of the “Ask Dr. Reed Q&A” column or his book, The Doctor in the Mirror. Dr. Reed cannot provide individual responses but he may address your idea in a future column, which you can read right here on Facebook. If you are seeking personal advice, please consult your doctor, specialist, or nurse.