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Harvard Medical School has released a new report offering advice on how to choose a safe and healthy multivitamin.

The report comes just one month after reported unexpected nutrient levels and contamination in 11 out of 21 tested multivitamins on the marked in the United States and Canada.

“Vitamins and Minerals: What you Need to Know” offers the following advice:

-Make sure there is a seal of approval. Look for products with the U.S. Pharmacopeia Dietary Supplement Verification Program (USP-DSVP) mark. This seal of approval indicates that the manufacturer has abided by certain standards.

-Check the levels. All multivitamins have a “Supplement Facts” label listing the percentage of the daily value (DV) of each nutrient per serving and the actual amount of each. None of the nutrients should be more than 150% of the DV. And for trace minerals, including iron, fluoride, and zinc, it is unsafe to exceed the DV at all.

-Don’t fall for the gimmicks. Some dietary supplements pride themselves on deriving their nutrients from natural sources, but the reality is your body will use the resulting product the same way, whether it was created in a laboratory or derived from plants. In addition, there’s no need to pay more for allergen-free products unless you’re sensitive to specific ingredients such as wheat, rice, or lactose.

-Spare your wallet from the unproven extras. Herbs and other nonvitamin ingredients such as Echinacea, bioflavonoids, and ubiquinone (coenzyme Q10) that are added to supplements are not essential for your health.

-Watch out for potentially dangerous interactions. Read the warning labels and tell you doctor and pharmacist what supplements you take.

Meier J. Stampfer, M.D., Ph.D., Professor of Epidemiology and Nutrition, Harvard School of Public Health, edited this 48-page report, which also includes detailed explanations of each vitamin’s and mineral’s physiological effects, recommendations, research on health effects, plus information on how to create a healthy and balanced diet. News

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