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Experts choose 15 top supplements for heart, brain, digestive and women's health.
Cardiovascular disease remains the number-one killer of U.S. adults—by a long shot—so it’s no wonder heart health tops consumers’ lists of concerns. According to SPINS, shoppers purchased $227 million worth of supplements targeting hypertension, atherosclerosis and high cholesterol in natural foods stores, excluding Whole Foods Market. “The majority of cardiovascular disease is preventable and treatable with dietary changes, physical activity and targeted nutritional supplementation,” Pizzorno says. “Along with lifestyle interventions, supplements typically have broader benefit than pharmaceuticals because they address the dysfunctions that underlie chronic disease, rather than treating the symptoms.”
Our experts unanimously tout omega-3-fatty-acid-packed fish-oil supplements for their vast cardiovascular benefits, especially since people rarely get enough of fish oil’s active components, EPA and DHA, from food. “Most people would benefit from eating 12 ounces of fish per week,” Low Dog says. “But since many do not, fish oil is high on my list [for heart health].”
How it works: EPA and DHA alter the fatty-acid content of cellular membranes—improving cell function—and combat the inflammation that causes most cardiovascular diseases, Pizzorno says. “They reduce blood pressure in hypertensive individuals, lower triglycerides, improve insulin resistance, prevent and treat metabolic syndrome, and reduce arrhythmias and cardiac death.”
To maintain a healthy heart and circulatory system—and protect the brain and eyes—Low Dog suggests a daily dose of a molecularly distilled fish oil that offers 600 to 800 mg of EPA and 300 to 500 mg of DHA. But those with heart disease or elevated triglycerides may need up to 3,000 to 4,000 mg total per day, Pizzorno says.
Take note: “Make sure fish oil is clean and free of heavy metals and dioxins,” Lucille says. “Manufacturers must be able to prove product purity.”
An anti-inflammatory and antioxidant with myriad therapeutic benefits, turmeric—more specifically, its active constituent curcumin—demonstrates potential heart-protecting qualities, although curcumin research to date has been limited to lab and animal studies.
How it works: Even without conclusive human trials, Pizzorno says “curcumin’s ability to stop inflammation suggests it may help prevent and treat cardiovascular disease.” Lucille agrees: “Curcumin stops platelets from clumping together, which improves circulation and may help protect against atherosclerosis.” Both experts recommend a daily curcumin dose between 1,000 and 2,000 mg.
Take note: Lucille says standard curcumin’s bioavailability is poor, so clinical trials have used large dosages (up to 12 grams daily) to get small amounts into the bloodstream. But high doses may make cost an issue. To combat this, she says, “new research is focusing on approaches to improve curcumin’s bioavailability, such as adding lecithin or piperine,” which is a pepper plant extract that increases absorption. Lucille also points to a product, BCM-95 Bioavailable Curcumin, that uses phospholipids and turmeric essential oils to boost absorption.