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January 22, 2015

Mixing Supplements and Medications: Should Older Adults Worry?

The medications you use and the supplements you take are all meant to keep you as healthy as possible. However, a recent study suggests that mixing certain types of multivitamins with medications can have dangerous consequences.

The study, conducted by the Military Nutrition Division of the U.S. Army Research Institute of Environmental Medicine, aimed to determine how frequently supplements and medications are taken together in the U.S. and whether any patterns exist between supplement use and certain medical conditions. More than 10,000 adults answered questions about their medical history and their supplement and medication use.

The most concerning results found that taking a multivitamin was a common practice among people who were diagnosed with osteoporosis, as well as a host of other conditions, such as cancer, arthritis, diabetes, and cardiovascular disease. The problem with this correlation is that some multivitamins containing herbal ingredients can alter the effectiveness of a medication. For all of the above listed conditions, a slip-up in medication could be extremely dangerous. 

So, is mixing supplements and medication something older adults need to be worried about? The easy answer...probably. The more complicated answer... Read on. 

While this might not be an issue to waste significant worry on, it does at least warrant caution and a need for awareness. 

How you choose to nourish your body is a personal choice, but it’s important to check with your doctor to make sure there isn’t a conflict between prescribed medication and any other supplements you might be taking. If you’re worried there might be a problem with your mixed supplement and medication, here are three ways you can take action and set your mind at ease. 

  • Talk to your doctor before you start taking anything. Discuss the purpose of each prescription medication and explain your multivitamin routine to your doctor.
  • Bring in the bottles. If you’re still uncertain after speaking with your doctor, feel free to bring in the original containers of each type of supplement or medication you’ll be taking to your doctor. He or she will be able to look over the ingredient list and see if there is cause for concern. 
  • Check reports. This study is only one bit of research , while researchers have thought there could be negative medication interactions with some herbal supplements, there’s no definitive answer. Stay informed by keeping up with the research and checking with reliable sources to see if any negative reactions have been reported. 

Managing your medication is an important aspect of staying your healthiest as you age. While multivitamins are generally thought of as a healthy addition to a diet, you don’t want to take a supplement that could cause interference with necessary medications. Staying knowledgeable about the risks can help you practice better medication management.

For more tips on medication management, download our free eBook all about medication safety.

Better Medication Management


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