Do We Really Need All These Supplements? Answers Straight from a Clinical Dietician

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Standing in front of the vitamin aisle at your local drug store, you might feel embarrassed to even ask, "What supplements should I be taking?"

This question comes up often for Hoda Hakimjavadi, who hears this from patients with chronic diseases at the hospital, but also from friends and family who seem to be in good health.

are supplements the answer to healthy living?

As a clinical dietitian at UCLA-Ronald Reagan Medical Center, Hakimjavadi sees patients suffering from a variety of chronic diseases. What do they all have in common?

They all have micro-mineral deficiencies.

Hakimjavadi's responsibility is to target which micro-nutrients may be deficient in each patient, and request specific labs to be drawn so that she can supplement them with an adequate dosage of required micro-nutrient. 

"They are either not getting enough minerals and nutrients because they are not consuming the right foods in the right amount, or their illnesses and conditions have hindered their ability to properly absorb micro-nutrients," she tells Beyond The Interview.


Given the minimal regulations in the supplement industry, it's extremely difficult for consumers to correctly determine what they need, as well as what they need to avoid. The supplement industry is just another money-making industry, according to several dietitians, and a huge money-making industry at that. In fact, the supplement industry produced "$32 billion in revenue for just nutritional supplements alone in 2012 and is projected to double that by topping $60 billion in 2021," according to Forbes.

As a healthcare provider, this amount of revenue terrifies Hakimjavadi.

"I doubt that most of these supplements, if any,  have been produced by dietitians or doctors, let alone been recommended by one," she says.

So what? We waste some extra cash on few supplements. What's the harm in that?

Hakimjavadi's answer?

Yes, there is harm in taking supplements you do not need.

"You are putting extra work on those precious organs of yours, especially on your kidney and liver—organs that need to last you a lifetime," Hakimjavadi says.

Some micro-nutrients in excess can actually prohibit the proper absorption of other micro-nutrients that may also be vital for your health, according to Hakimjavadi. She also says that the supplement industry is not regulated, so what you read on the label may not actually be what you are getting, and if you are on medication prescribed by your doctor, certain supplements can alter their efficacy. 

Read Hakimjavadi's full recommendation below.

My recommendation is discussing with a health care professional what supplements you may need. By collecting a client's health history and typical food intake, we can pin-point what their needs might be. Sometimes we can even be more specific by getting lab work done in order to monitor improvement of the deficiencies. The fact is that some of these single-nutrient supplements provided adverse effects or no effect at all.

Supplements have definitely become a fad and there is a variety of supplements out there that claim to help improve your health, but most of it is just good marketing. There is definitely truth to micro-nutrients helping to prevent hair loss and keeping your nails and skin healthy or even helping with your energy level, however many of these can be met with proper nutrition, and if you are not meeting them through your dietary intake you need to be on the proper supplement that has been vetted by a health care provider. We have done the research, and will only recommend what our patients need to keep them at their optimal health.

Hoda Hakimjavadi works as a clinical dietitian for the Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center. She contends that the effects of nutrition on human health are extremely powerful. After receiving her M.S. and completing her didactic program, she spent the following year conducting clinical rotations at Cedars-Sinai, UCLA and Kaiser to further her understanding of medical nutrition therapy. Hakimjavadi has been an advocate of spreading knowledge in the field of healthcare by holding presentations for employees at CSUN, writing for the CSUN Nutrition Experts website, speaking at health fairs, and providing nutritional advice on her own Instagram page @HealthyByHoda.