By Laura Roberson, Men's Health
If you condensed your most recent meal down to a few pills, would they be tiny dynamos, or the nutritional equivalent of Tic Tacs? If you're like most men, what's on your plate falls somewhere in between—that is, leaving plenty of room for improvement. "If men start to favor certain foods—meat and potatoes, for example—they may develop nutritional blind spots as a result," says Kristie Lancaster, Ph.D., an associate professor of nutrition at New York University.
This can be a problem, because your body needs a basic roster of vitamins and minerals to run properly. If your regular diet comes up short, you may need a multivitamin to reach this nutritional baseline. But to actually boost your health, you need to consider moving beyond a multi by folding in some less common elements. Lycopene, for instance, is a powerful antioxidant found in tomatoes. Red yeast rice, a heart-healthy statin. Bottled boosters such as these can be insurance policies for your nutritional blind spots—and if you have specific health concerns, a form of extended coverage
The right supplements can help your heart, sharpen your immune system, and even improve your sex life. The wrong ones, however, can be ineffective or even harmful. "You run into problems because most men are 'prescribing' these things themselves," says Tod Cooperman, M.D., president of ConsumerLab.com, an independent tester of health and nutritional products. "Don't take supplements with abandon. They should be used carefully, because taking in too much of certain nutrients can cause problems."
We consulted with top doctors, reviewed the latest research, and waded through marketers' claims to bring you 18 of the best supplements for men. Use our guide—along with advice from your own doc, since many supplements can interact with other medications—to fine-tune your strategy.
Problem: Brain drain
Solution: ACETYL L-CARNITINE
This amino acid converts fats to energy and boosts antioxidant activity in the body. In supplement form, it may protect gray matter from stress caused by alcohol and aging. And in a 2006 study, people who received 1,000 milligrams (mg) of acetyl L-carnitine a day saw relief from mild chronic depression.
Dose: 1,000 mg/day*
Our pick: Vitamin World Acetyl L-Carnitine, 1,000 mg; vitaminworld. com ($50/60 capsules)
Natural sources: Red meat, dairy products
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Problem: Erectile dysfunction
Solution: KOREAN RED PANAX GINSENG
Sixty percent of men with erectile dysfunction who took this supplement noticed improvement, according to a 2002 Korean study. The herb may also protect your heart—in a recent Canadian study, a daily dose reduced arterial stiffness.
Dose: 900 mg, up to three times a day*
Our pick: Vitamin World Korean Ginseng, 500 mg; vitaminworld. com ($13/100 capsules)
Natural sources: Korean ginseng root
Problem: High blood pressure
Solution: COENZYME Q-10
CoQ-10 can lower your blood pressure while boosting your levels of ecSOD, an enzyme thought to protect blood vessels from damage. CoQ- 10 may also improve sperm quality, Italian researchers say. Japanese researchers found it can increase fat burning during exercise.
Dose: 30 to 200 mg/day*
Our pick: Carlson Co-Q10, 100 mg; carlsonlabs.com ($40/90 soft gels)
Natural sources: Meat and fish, eggs, broccoli
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Problem: Bone weakness
Solution: VITAMIN D
Vitamin D is a hormone that helps your bones absorb calcium. That's a critical benefit, but there's also a steady stream of other compelling reasons to take it, Dr. Cooperman says. For instance, Vitamin D has been linked to reduced levels of depression, reduced risk of colorectal cancer, and less chance of a heart attack.
Dose: 1,000 IU Vitamin D3/day
Our pick: GNC Vitamin D-3 1000; gnc.com ($10/180 tablets)
Natural sources: Sunshine, fortified milk
Problem: Heart disease
Solution: FISH OIL
Loaded with the essential omega-3 fatty acids EPA and DHA, fish oil can reduce triglycerides, boost HDL cholesterol, and lower blood pressure. But your heart isn't the only beneficiary: The healthy fats may also reduce inflammation and improve cognitive performance, and may lower your risk of colon and prostate cancers.
Dose: At least 500 mg DHA and 500 mg EPA daily
Our pick: Nordic Naturals Ultimate Omega; nordicnaturals.com ($28/60 soft gels)
Natural sources: Salmon, tuna, or other fatty fish
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A drop in magnesium can be a major headache. "Blood vessels in your brain constrict, and receptors in the feel-good chemical serotonin malfunction," says Alexander Mauskop, M.D., director of the New York Headache Center. Result: a migraine. The mineral also might help regulate blood pressure and could ward off stroke and diabetes.
Dose: 250 mg/day, plus the magnesium in your diet
Our pick: Life Extension Magnesium Citrate, 160 mg; lef.org ($9/100 capsules)
Natural sources: Leafy greens, whole grains, pumpkin seeds, coffee, nuts
Solution: PSYLLIUM HUSK
This fiber is more than a colon clearer. In a recent Finnish study, the addition of psyllium to meals reduced participants' blood sugar and insulin response. Paired with protein, it was also shown to suppress ghrelin, a hormone that makes you hungry. Psyllium is one of five soluble fibers approved by the FDA for lowering LDL cholesterol.
Dose: 20 to 35 g/day, divided and taken with at least 8 oz liquid
Our pick: GNC Natural Brand Colon Pure; gnc.com ($16/19 oz)
Natural sources: Some fortified cereal grains
Problem: Digestive upset
Probiotics are healthy bacteria that crowd out the disease-causing bad bacteria in your gut. Some can reduce diarrhea caused by certain infections, antibiotics, chemotherapy, and irritable bowel syndrome, Dr. Cooperman notes. The encapsulated good guys may also boost your immune function.
Dose: 1 capsule (with at least 1 billion bacteria) a day
Our pick: GNC Natural Brand Acidophilus Probiotic Complex; gnc.com ($14/100 tablets)
Natural sources: Yogurt, kefir, and other dairy products
Problem: Low endurance
Want to extend your cardio session? People who didn't exercise regularly but took 500 mg of this antioxidant twice a day for a week were able to bicycle 13 percent longer than the placebo group, a University of South Carolina study found. It may help reduce the oxidation of LDL particles and reduce blood-vessel constriction.
Dose: Up to 500 mg, twice a day*
Our pick: Jarrow Formulas Quercetin 500; vitaminexpress. com ($16/100 capsules)
Natural sources: Red wine, parsley, grapefruit, onions, apples
Problem: Poor memory
This supplement's antioxidants fight free-radical stress in your brain and stop the degradation of nitric oxide, which preserves neural connections. In a recent Australian study, it improved memory in elderly people. Pycnogenol also supports better bloodflow, which helps fight joint pain and reduce muscle cramps.
Dose: 150 mg/day*
Our pick: TwinLab Pycnogenol, 50 mg; twinlab.com ($50/60 capsules)
Natural source: Pine bark
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Problem: Joint pain
Glucosamine, a building block of cartilage, can relieve pain and inflammation in joints, says Nicholas DiNubile, M.D., an orthopedic surgeon. In fact, a recent study found glucosamine is more effective than acetaminophen (a.k.a. Tylenol) at relieving symptoms of knee osteoarthritis, often caused in younger men by joint injury.
Dose: 1,500 mg/day*
Our pick: Puritan's Pride Glucosamine 1,500 mg; puritan.com ($29/120 caplets)
Natural sources: Crustacean shells
Solution: VITAMIN C
Sixty percent of adult men don't get enough vitamin C in their diets, according to an American Journal of Clinical Nutrition study. Vitamin C helps protect your cells from the tissue-damaging free radicals produced by exercise. It also helps heal wounds, and it's key to production of the collagen found in ligaments and tendons.
Dose: Up to 1,000 mg/day in spaced doses
Our pick: Ester-C, 500 mg; cvs.com ($11/90 tablets)
Natural sources: Rose hips, citrus fruits, broccoli, guava, kiwifruits, parsley
Problem: Extra body fat
Men who took green-tea extract burned 17 percent more fat after moderate exercise than those taking placebos, according to one study. EGCG, the most active antioxidant in green tea, is thought to prolong exercise-induced boosts in metabolism. It has also been shown to help prevent cancer and can improve heart health.
Dose: 890 mg/day green tea extract (containing 340 mg of EGCG)
Our pick: Green Tea EGCG-200; procapslabs.com ($15/30 capsules)
Natural sources: Green tea
Problem: Prostate-cancer risk
Found in tomatoes, this potent antioxidant may reduce your risk of prostate cancer, according to a recent University of Illinois study review. The researchers say it may work by altering hormone metabolism and by causing cancer cells to self-destruct.
Dose: 15 to 20 mg/day*
Our pick: Carlson Labs Lycopene (Tomato-Free), 15 mg; carlsonlabs.com ($50/180)
Natural sources: Fresh or cooked tomatoes, and fruits with red/pink flesh
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Solution: RED YEAST RICE
It contains lovastatin—a prescription statin—as well as other compounds that may help manage cholesterol. In a recent Annals of Internal Medicine study, patients who took red yeast rice during a 12-week diet and exercise program cut their LDL by 27 percent, compared with 6 percent for those who only dieted and exercised.
Dose: 600 mg, 3 times a day* (Consult your M.D. if you're on heart meds.)
Our pick: Cholestene Red Yeast Rice Dietary Supplement; cholestene.org ($14/120 capsules)
Natural sources: Red yeast rice, some sake, red rice vinegar
Problem: Cancer risk
You can't stop the clock, but you can slow it down. This chemical, found in the skin of grapes, seems to interact directly with genes that regulate aging, says Dr. Katz. Resveratrol has been shown to promote DNA repair in animals, enhance bloodflow to people's brains, and halt the growth of prostate-cancer and colon-cancer cells.
Dose: No dosage recommendations
Our pick: Biotivia Transmax 500 mg Trans-Resveratrol; biotivia.com ($40/30 capsules_
Natural sources: Red wine, red grape juice
Talk about head-to-toe relief: A synthetic form of a dietary amino acid, SAMe has been found to treat depression as effectively as prescription antidepressants, according to Canadian researchers. It has also been shown to reduce joint pain and inflammation, and it may aid cartilage repair.
Dose: 600 to 1,600 mg/day, depending on the condition.*
Our pick: GNC SAM-e 400; gnc.com ($38/30 tablets)
Natural sources: Made in your body, possibly after eating meats, greens, and oranges
Problem: Enlarged prostate
Solution: SAW PALMETTO
As you age, your risk rises for benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH), a condition that makes you trickle at the toilet. Saw palmetto may help restore the flow. In a recent Korean study, men taking 320 mg of saw palmetto daily saw their BPH symptoms decrease by 50 percent after 1 year.
Dose: 320 mg/day*
Our pick: GNC Herbal Plus Standardized Saw Palmetto; gnc.com ($16/100 softgels)
Natural source: Saw palmetto berries
* The dosages shown here have been used in studies, but your doctor can recommend an appropriate dose for you.